The population of red kites in Switzerland has grown strongly in recent decades and now accounts for about 10% of the world’s population, according to research by the Swiss Ornithological Institute. That gives the Alpine country a “high international responsibility” to protect the bird.
Some 2,800 to 3,500 pairs now breed in Switzerland. But despite the population upswing, the bird is exposed to numerous dangers, says the institute. These include collisions, electrocution on overhead power lines, poisoning and illegal shooting.
Since 2015 it has been conducting research to find out why this “elegant glider” feels so at home in Switzerland. The main reason seems to be the bird’s adaptability, both in food and migration habits.
Research found that the red kite is not a choosy eater. In addition to mice and worms, the bird also eats carrion and rubbish. Large groups of red kites also gather to eat injured or dead animals together. This is why the bird’s ecological function is “more reminiscent of a vulture than an agile hunter”, says the Swiss Ornithological Institute.
In the past, all Swiss red kites migrated to the Iberian peninsula in autumn to spend the winter there. But the older the birds get, the more likely they are to stay, and now about half of the Swiss red kites spend the winter in Switzerland. These birds gather in the evening at common roosts, which can number more than 100 individuals, the institute wrote.
Source: Swiss Info