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Carmarthenshire: Ringed red kite recorded as world’s oldest

An injured red kite discovered in Carmarthenshire has been determined to be the oldest ringed red kite to successfully thrive in the wild.

In July, a concerned homeowner in Llanybydder observed the ailing bird of prey, which had collapsed and was incapable of flight. The homeowner promptly reached out to the RSPCA for assistance.

RSPCA wildlife officer Ellie West was assigned to evaluate the bird, which had been under the homeowner’s care until its retrieval.

“This was such a beautiful bird – and I could tell that it was an adult and of a good age,” she said.

“There were no avian influenza symptoms but I was immediately concerned about its thin body condition and poor plumage.

“Unfortunately due to the extent of the kite’s condition it meant that the bird could not be helped and was put to sleep to prevent further suffering.

“The bird wasn’t able to fully extend its wings at carpal joints and was showing signs of bumblefoot – along with other concerns meaning sadly rehabilitation wasn’t an option.”

Ellie subsequently notified the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) about the discovery of the ring, which was identified as a light green Darvic ring.

The BTO’s ringing schemes are instrumental in monitoring bird populations, offering insights into the number of young birds that fledge and survive to adulthood, as well as the survival rates of adults throughout the breeding process, migration, and challenging weather conditions.

By the end of September, the BTO responded with information that the bird had been ringed as a nestling on June 20, 1997, and had managed to endure for 9,518 days, solidifying its status as the oldest known red kite.

Confirming the significant age of the red kite, Lee Barber, Demographic Surveys Organiser at BTO said: “This red kite now holds the longevity record for the oldest known wild red kite in Britain and Ireland.

“Amazingly this is the first and only report of this bird in 26 years and 22 days since it was ringed as a nestling back in 1997.

“It’s brilliant when people take the time to report ringed birds, as it helps us to gain a greater understanding of bird populations across the UK. Had this bird not been wearing a ring we would have no indication at all that it had become the oldest known of its species, as once red kites have moulted out of their immature plumage they look pretty much identical irrespective of age.”

“Anyone can help monitor any bird they find wearing a ring, not just red kites, by reporting it to www.ring.ac. My colleagues at BTO will then get back to them with a life history of the bird they found.”