A PAIR of red kites who became well-known to tourists and animal lovers have been found dead.
Numerous visitors travelled to the kites’ nesting site near Whittonstall, Northumberland, last year, where they were clearly visible at long-range for several months.
But now their bodies have been discovered in the same vicinity of woodland at Hindley, near Stocksfield, Northumberland.
The bird carcasses have now been sent to the London Institute of Zoology for forensic analysis to determine how they died.
The find comes just a few weeks after another pair of red kites were found dead at Steel, near Hexham. It is believed they died after eating carrion illegally laced with poison.
Ken Sanderson, chairman of Friends of Red Kites, said the latest pair were discovered at different times but in the same wooded area. “The birds were wing-tagged, so we have been able to identify them,” he said.
“One is Ziggy, who nested with another kite, Jammy Dodger, near the Highland Cattle Centre close to Whittonstall last year.
“The other is Ponteland Sunrise, who had nested there this year after the first kite, Jammy Dodger, left.
“At least one chick will, inevitably, also have perished. We were not sure how many chicks were in the nest but we believe one had hatched and possibly more.
“The tree-climbers have not gone up to see yet. I have asked for the forensic investigation to be fast-tracked and we are now awaiting the results.”
The dead kites, among dozens of others, had been adopted and named by local schools as part of a development programme run by the Friends of Red Kites. After Ziggy and Jammy Dodger nested at Whittonstall in spring last year, numerous visitors used the vantage point provided by the Highland Cattle Centre on the opposite side of a small valley to view the isolated nest high in trees.
James Leonard, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “It is another unfortunate and tragic incident. If anyone knows anything at all about how these birds died, please contact us.
“The kites are an essential part of the heritage of Northumberland and it is essential that we understand why they have died.
“It would be unusual for a pair of healthy birds with a newly-hatched chick to have died naturally but we will know more when we receive the results of the forensic tests.”
Northumbria Police wildlife co-ordinator Don Churchill said: “We ask anyone who can help with information to contact us on 0345 604 3043.”