The king of Wales

The story of the red kite is wildly romantic, a dramatic flight from the brink of extinction to an exalted status as our (unofficial) national bird. Yes, we’re very fond of our red kites, and as common as they now are, it’s still a thrill to see them quartering the skies.

A majestic bird

Red Kite

Red Kite
It’s one of the grandest sights in Welsh skies - a family of red kites performing acrobatics overhead. These beautiful birds were pushed to near extinction in Britain, and only a few pairs survived in the remote upper reaches of the Cothi and Tywi valleys in the wild mid west. Thanks to heroic conservation efforts, they’re now a common sight, Wales has an estimated 1,000 breeding pairs, and Welsh birds have helped to boost populations all over the UK.

There’s more good news: peregrine, goshawk and osprey populations are on the up too. There have even been sightings of golden eagles… although they’re probably escapees. Still, the Welsh name for Snowdon is Eryri – ‘place of eagles’ – so maybe they’re planning a comeback.

Until then, the red kite remains our favourite bird. Here are some of the best places to see them:

Anywhere in Mid Wales

A pair of red kits perched on a branch

Red kites
And by that, we mean pretty much everywhere you go in the counties of Powys, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire. In many places, the red kite will be the most common large bird in the sky. There’ll often be buzzards and ravens too, but the kite is easily distinguished by its slender proportions and forked tail (and once you’ve spotted one, you’ll never mistake it for anything else). Kites are seen almost everywhere else in Wales, from Anglesey to Gower, albeit in fewer numbers.

Gigrin Farm, near Rhayader

Large groups of red kites swooping for food at Gigrin Farm, Mid Wales

Red kites at Gigrin Farm, Mid Wales by Allan McMillan
Spotting kites in Mid Wales is easy enough, but there’s still nothing like the sight of whole squadrons of them en masse at Gigrin Farm, where up to 600 kites arrive each afternoon to feast on carrion, along with a supporting cast of buzzards and corvids. There are five hides from which to view the action at close quarters, including one that has easy wheelchair access.

Red Kite Feeding Centre, Llanddeusant

This Red Kite Feeding Station sits in the west of the Brecon Beacons, one of the most beautiful (and quietest) parts of the National Park. Usually 50 plus kites gather for daily feedings, which you can view from hides (again, with good disabled access). Combine a trip here to a walk up to nearby Llyn y Fan, which sits beneath the giant escarpment of the Carmarthen Fans, for a perfectly wild day out.

Bwlch Nant yr Arian, Ponterwyd, near Aberystwyth

A red kite flying above Liwernog Pond at the Bwlch Nant Yr Arian Visitor Centre

Bwlch Nant Yr Arian Visitor Centre, Ceredigion by Colin Price
Back in 1999 when red kites were less common here, a feeding station was set up to give the birds a helping hand. Now as many as 150 kites come in to feed, and more in winter months, including an unusual white kite (it’s actually a red kite with a rare genetic quirk). This is also a major centre for walking and mountain biking, with a café and play area.

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