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Red Kite Milvus milvus
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This species is listed as Near Threatened because it is experiencing a moderately rapid population decline, owing mostly to poisoning from pesticides and persecution, and changes in land-use amongst other threats. Despite the current rapid declines in southern Europe, if population increases in northern range states are sustained the species may qualify for downlisting in the future.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note
Milvus milvus (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) was split into M. milvus and M. fasciicauda by Hazevoet (1995), but for reasons given in Johnson et al. (2005) this treatment has not been adopted by the BirdLife Taxonomic W

Distribution and population
Milvus milvus is endemic to the western Palearctic, with the European population of 19,000-23,000 pairs encompassing 95% of its global breeding range (BirdLife International 2004, Mammen 2007). It breeds from Spain and Portugal east through central Europe to Ukraine, north to southern Sweden, Latvia and the U.K., and south to southern Italy. Populations winter within the western breeding range, and formerly in isolated patches south and east to eastern Turkey. Its status as a breeding and wintering species in North Africa is now uncertain. The three largest populations (in Germany [10,500-12,500], France [2,300-3,000] and Spain [1,900-2,700] , which together hold more than 75% of the global population [Knott et al. 2009 ]) all declined during 1990-2000, and overall the species declined by almost 20% over that period (BirdLife International 2004). Eastern German populations declined by 25-30% between 1991 and 1997, but have remained stable since then (Mammen 2000, Mammen and Stubbe 2002), whereas in the federal state Saxony-Anhalt the decline continued until 2006 (Mammen 2007). The populations of the northern foothills of the Harz Mts (the most densely populated part of its range) suffering an estimated 50% decline from 1991-2001 (Nicolai and Weihe 2001). In Spain, the species showed an overall decline in breeding population of 46% for the period 1994 to 2004, and surveys of wintering birds in 2004 suggest a decline of around 50% since 1994 (Cardiel 2006); trends that have apparently continued in recent years (J. Vinuela in litt. 2009). In France, breeding populations have decreased in the northeast, and in the north and east Massif Central, but seem to be stable in southwest and central France and Corsica (A. Mionnet in litt. 2005, Mionnet 2007). Comparing counts from 1980 and 2000 suggests a decline of up to 80% in some areas, during which time the species's range in France decreased by 15% (A. Mionnet in litt. 2005, Thiollay and Bretagnolle 2004). A national survey conducted in 2008 revealed a decline of more than 20% of the French breeding population over 6 years (David and Mionnet 2010), with the breeding population declining from 3,000-3,900 pairs in 2002 (Mionnet 2007) to 2,335-3,022 pairs in 2008 (Pinaud et al. 2009). A survey in January 2007 indicated that the wintering population in France numbered nearly 6,000 individuals, with most in the Pyrenees (Mionnet 2007). The Balearic Islands population declined from 41-47 breeding pairs in 1993 to 27 in 2004 (Cardiel 2006). However, conservation actions have since enabled the population to recover, to 38 breeding pairs in 2007 (Cardiel in litt. 2007). Populations elsewhere are stable or increasing. In Switzerland, populations increased during the 1990s to 1,200-1,500 in 2008 (Knott et al. 2009), and have now stabilised (V. Keller in litt. 2005) The population in Belgium was estimated at 150 breeding pairs in 2007 (Knott et al. 2009), following an increase from 1-2 irregular pairs in 1967 (Defourny et al. 2007). In Sweden the species has increased from 30-50 pairs in the 1970s to 1,800 pairs in 2007 (L. Lindell in litt. 2005, Å. Lindström in litt. 2005, Knott et al. 2009). The rate of increase in Sweden has been recorded as 7.1% annually during 1982-2006 or 13% annually during 1998-2006, depending on the survey method used (Å. Lindström in litt. 2007); and a rough calculation suggests that Sweden could support 5,000-10,000 pairs once the species has reached carrying capacity (N. Kjellén in litt. 2008). In Denmark, the population has increased from 17 known breeding pairs in 2001 to 81 breeding pairs in 2009 (Hjembæk 2010). Since an extreme low during the 20th Century the U.K. population has increased in recent decades and was estimated to number 1,600 breeding pairs in 2008 (Knott et al. 2009). This population is still increasing rapidly and a long-term estimate for future carrying capacity is in the order of 10,000 pairs (N. Kjellén in litt. 2008). Overall, the species population has declined in recent years owing to rapid declines in Iberia for resident breeding birds, and migrants that winter in Spain. Previously the majority of the global population wintered in Spain, but increasingly birds are remaining on their northern European breeding grounds. Those populations that winter outside of Spain are generally increasing. Therefore, while serious declines are expected to continue in southern Europe and therefore in the global population as a whole, as northern populations increase, it is anticipated that their growth will eventually outweigh declines in Iberia.

Population justification
A review of available data in 2009 concluded the population numbers 21,000-25,500 pairs.

Trend justification
Although the Red Kite declined globally until the 1970s owing to persecution, many populations recovered or stabilised during 1970-1990 (Mionnet 2007) and its overall numbers were probably stable in Europe from 1970 to 1990 (Tucker & Heath 1994). Since 1990, declines documented within its core breeding areas - Spain (c. 4,000 mature individuals; Cardiel 2006), France (c. 4,700-6,000 mature individuals; Bretagnolle 2009) and Germany (c. 22,600 mature individuals; Mammen 2007) - have been partly offset by increases in countries like the UK, Sweden, Poland and Switzerland. Combining stable population trends between 1970 and 1990 with recent rapid declines in its core range, and increases in a few countries, yields an overall population decline over the past three generations (34.5 years) of 16%. This three generation rate of decline is likely to increase in the short term as numbers continue to fall in Iberia, but in the longer-term a reduction in the rate of decline, and even population increases are likely if current trends in the UK and Sweden are sustained. Therefore, a moderately rapid decline over three generations is retained for the present; this will be reviewed in the future.

The species breeds in broadleaf woodlands and forests, mixed with farmland, pasture and heathland, to 2,500 m in Morocco (del Hoyo et al. 1994). In winter it also occupies wasteland, scrub and wetlands. Formerly an urban scavenger, it still visits the edges of towns and cities. It takes a wide range of food, but feeds mainly on carrion and small to medium-sized mammals and birds. Reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates are less important prey. Most birds in north-east Europe are migratory, wintering mainly in southern France and Iberia, but with some travelling as far as Africa (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Migrants travel south from their breeding grounds between August and November, returning between February and April (Snow and Perrins 1998). Birds are usually seen singly or in pairs, but sometimes form small flocks, possibly family groups, when soaring on migration (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001).

The most pertinent threat to this species is illegal direct poisoning to kill predators of livestock and game animals (targetting foxes, wolves, corvids etc.)and indirect poisoning from pesticides and secondary poisoning from consumption of poisoned rodents by rodenticides spread on farmland to control vole plagues, particularly in the wintering ranges in France and Spain, where it is driving rapid population declines (A. Aebischer in litt. 2009); there is a strong correlation between rapid declines and those populations that winter in Spain (Carter 2007). The Spanish government released more than 1,500 tons of rodenticide-treated baits over about 500,000 ha to fight against a common vole plague in agricultural lands between August 2007 and April 2008; records of Red Kites dying by secondary poisoning in treated areas resulted (J. Vinuela in litt. 2009). Illegal poisoning is also a serious threat to the species in north Scotland, with 40% of birds found dead between 1989 and 2006 having been killed by poisoning (Smart et al. 2010). In France populations disappeared at the same rate as conversion from grasslands to cereal crops (P. Tourret in litt. 2009). The decline of grazing livestock and farming intensification leading to chemical pollution, homogenization of landscapes and ecological impoverishment also threatens the species (Knott et al. 2009). Wind turbines are a potentially serious future threat (Duchamp 2003, Mammen et al. 2009, P. Tourret in litt. 2009) and more research needs to be conducted to assess the level of threat windfarms pose to the species. Other less significant threats include electrocution and collision with powerlines (Mionnet 2007, P. Tourret in litt. 2009),  hunting and trapping (Mionnet 2007, P. Tourret in litt. 2009), road-kills, deforestation, egg-collection (on a local scale) and possibly competition with the generally more successful Black Kite M. migrans (Ferguson-Lees et al. 2001, Cardiel in litt. 200, Mammen 2007, Cardiel and Viñuela 2007). Another factor implicated in the declines in France and Spain is a decrease in the number of rubbish dumps (Mionnet 2007, Cardiel and Viñuela 2007).

Conservation Actions Underway
The species is on Annex I of the EU Birds Directive is the the focus of close monitoring and targeted conservation actions across most of its range, including reintroduction to parts of the U.K. since 1989 (English Nature 1995; RSPB 2007). Since 2007, further reintroduction projects are aiming to re-establish Red Kites in Tuscany and in the Marche (Italy), the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland - the first breeding attempt in the Republic was recorded in 2009. An EU species action plan for the Red Kite was published in 2009 (Knott et al. 2009). National species action plans are in place in Germany, France, the Balearic Islands and Denmark, and a draft national action plan is in place in Portugal. Ongoing research in Germany aims to examine further the impact of windfarms on the red kite breeding population in this country. In 2007, for the first time, three young birds in France were fitted with satellite transmitters, although only one provided regular information (Mionnet 2007). In Spain, radio-tracking was carried out in Segovia in 2006-2007.
Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue to monitor population trends and breeding productivity. Continue to manage reintroduction projects. Regulate the use of pesticides, especially in France and Spain. Reduce persecution through law enforcement, prosecutions and awareness campaigns. Carry out further studies into the impact of changing land-use practices. Lobby for changes in EU and national agricultural policies. Increase the area of suitable woodland and forest with protected status. Work with land-owners to protect habitat and prevent persecution. Consider extending supplementary feeding to more areas of low food availability. Ensure national legislation on animal by-products takes into account the needs of scavengers. Promote control on feeding stations to be compliant with sanitary regulations.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Aebischer, A. 2009. Der Rotmilan: ein faszinierender Greifvogel. Haupt, Bern.

BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Bretagnolle, V. 2009. First results of the red kite national survey. In: LPO/BirdLife (ed.), Milan info n°16, 17 & 18.

Cardiel, I. E. 2006. El milano real en España. II Censo Nacional (2004).

Cardiel, I.; Viñuela, J. 2007. The Red Kite in Spain: distribution, recent population trends, and current threats.

Carter, N. 2007. Lark Rise Farm, Barton, Cambs (Plot 1571) the Countryside Restoration Trust report on breeding birds 2005. BTO Research Report 482: 1-17.

Ceccolini, G and Cenerini, A. 2006. Il restocking del Nibbio reale in Toscana nell"ambito "Progetto Life Natura Biarmicus 2004 - 2008" Comunita Montana Amiata Grossetano. In: Allavena, S., Andreotti, A., Angelini, J. and Massimiliano, S. (eds), Status e conservazione del Nibbio bruno e Nibbio reale in Italia ed in Europa meridionale., pp. 17-19. Teatro "S.Maria del Mercato", Serra S. Quirico.

David, F.; Mionnet, A. 2010. Milan royal Milvus milvus. Rapaces de France - L'Oiseau Magazine 12: 4-8.

Defourny, H.; Teerlynck, H.; Vangeluwe, D. 2007. Red Kite Milvus milvus in Belgium: review of the species status and study of breeding demographic characters. Alauda 75(2): 159-170.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1994. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Duchamp, M. 2003. Birds and windfarms.

English Nature. 1995. Return of the red kite: The red kite reintroduction project in England.

Ferguson-Lees, J.; Christie, D. A. 2001. Raptors of the world. Christopher Helm, London.

Hazevoet, C. J. 1995. The birds of the Cape Verde Islands. British Ornithologists" Union, Tring, U.K.

Hjembæk, G. 2010. Status rød glente. Fugle I Felten: 22-23.

Johnson, J. A.; Watson, R. T.; Mindell, D. P. 2005. Prioritizing species conservation: does the Cape Verde Kite exist? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B 272: 1365-1371.

Knott, J, P. Newbery, and B. Barov. 2009. Action plan for the red kite Milvus milvus in the European Union. BirdLife International for the European Union.

Mammen, U. 2000. Bestandsabnahme beim Rotmilan Milvus milvus von 1994 bis 1997 in Deutschland. Ornithologische Mitteilungen 52: 4-13.

Mammen, U. 2007. Der Rotmilan als prioritäre Art des Vogelschutzes in Deutschland und Mitteleuropa.

Mammen, U., Mammen, K., Kratzsch, L. andr Resetaritz, A. 2009. Interactions of Red Kites and wind farms in Germany: results of radio telemetry and field observations. In: David, F. (ed.), Red Kite International symposium, pp. 100-105. Montbéliard, France.

Mammen, U.; Stubbe, M. 2002. Jahresbericht 2001 zum Monitoring Greifvögel und Eulen Europas. Jahresbericht zum Monitoring. Greifvögel und Eulen Europas 14: 1-111.

Mionnet, A. 2007. Red Kite in France: distribution, population development , threats.

Nicolai, B.; Weihe, F. 2001. Bestand der Greifvögel (Accipitridae) im nordöstlichen Harzvorland - Situation 2001. Ornithologische Jahresberichte des Museum Heineanum 19: 33-47.

Pinaud, D., Passerault, M., Hemery, A. and Bretagnolle, V. 2009. Status of the Red Kite in France: results of the 2008 national survey. In: David, F. (ed.), Red Kite International symposium, pp. 21-22. Montbéliard, France.

Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1993. A supplement to "Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world". Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Smart, J.; Amar, A.; Sim, I. M. W.; Etheridge, B.; Cameron, D.; Christie, G.; Wilson, J. D. 2010. Illegal killing slows population recovery of a re-introduced raptor of high conservation concern - the Red Kite Milvus milvus. Biological Conservation 143(5): 1278-1286.

Snow, D. W.; Perrins, C. M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic vol. 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Thiollay, J.-M.; Bretagnolle, V. 2004. Rapaces nicheurs de France: distribution, effectifs et conservation. Delachaux et Niestlé, Paris.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Jump to the case study for this species in Wildlife comeback in Europe: The recovery of selected mammal and bird species (Deniet et al. 2003)

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Derhé, M., Ekstrom, J., Harding, M., Taylor, J., Khwaja, N.

Aebischer, A., Cardiel, I., Carter, I., Cross, A., Ignacio, A., Keller, V., Lindell, L., Lindström, Å., Madroño, A., Mammen, U., Mionnet, A., Newberry, P., Seyer, H., Tourret, P., Vinuela, J., Kjellén, N., Barov, B.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Milvus milvus. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Red kite (Milvus milvus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1758)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 2,310,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment