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Red kite voted Wales' Favourite Bird

Last modified: 11 October 2007

Red kite in flight

The red kite - a national symbol of wildlife in Wales - has been voted as Wales' Favourite Bird in a public poll.

In the RSPB Cymru and BBC Wales poll, an astonishing 36% of voters picked the red kite as their favourite bird, putting it way ahead of the robin - which came second with 15% of votes - and the barn owl in third place with 11%.

Iolo Williams launched the vote in the first episode of the autumn series of Iolo's Welsh Safari and revealed the winning bird in the final episode last night (Wednesday, 10 October, BBC One Wales). He said:

'The red kite is an extremely deserving winner with a hugely uplifting story of recovery from the brink of extinction. We can be proud that, when red kites were facing such a difficult time elsewhere in Britain, they hung on in Wales and have since gone from strength to strength.'

In the early 20th Century, intensive human persecution of red kites in the UK meant that only a handful of pairs survived, and these were to be found in the undisturbed oak woodlands in remote parts of mid-Wales.

However, thanks to protection efforts by a number of organisations, including the Welsh Kite Trust, the population has increased significantly and there are now around 600 breeding pairs in Wales.

Tony Cross, Welsh Kite Trust, said:

'It was here in Wales that the red kite made its last stand in Britain with conservationists, farmers and landowners collaborating, for a period well in excess of 100 years, to prevent its demise. It was during this hundred-year struggle that the red kite acquired an iconic status and even though it has now been successfully re-introduced to other parts of the UK it obviously still holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the people of Wales.

'Wales remains the original 'Kite Country' and anyone visiting the Gigrin Farm, Nant yr Arian, Talsarn or Black Mountain feeding stations in mid-Wales will be left in little doubt just how popular it is.'

With their vibrant chestnut-red feathers and deeply forked tail, the red kite is an extremely distinctive bird.

A great place to see red kites in Wales is at the Forestry Commission's Bwlch Nant yr Arian Centre on the A44 between Aberystwyth and Ponterwyd. Up to 70 birds at a time swoop and dive for food just feet away from visitors and RSPB Cymru staff and volunteers are on hand with telescopes, binoculars and advice. The red kites are fed at 3pm in summer and 2pm in winter. For more information, please visit www.rspb.org.uk/brilliant

IOLO'S WELSH SAFARI final episode repeated tonight - Thursday, 11 September BBC2W, 7.30pm www.bbc.co.uk/walesnature

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