Why “Red Kite”

As the company logo gives away the Red Kite name has an ornithological root.  Living in the Thames Valley, we have been able to watch the spread of the re-introduced birds.

We first saw one when driving between Nettlebed and Henley in Oxfordshire about fifteen years ago.  We didn’t get a clear sighting, only seeing a large raptor land in a tree that seemed to be barely capable of bearing the bird’s weight.  A few weeks later we got a much clearer view of a bird over Badgemore Park Golf Club.  We didn’t immediately recognise what it was, but looked it up when we got home.  This caused some confusion as there was no doubt that the shape, size and markings matched the Red Kite in our (rather aged) bird books, but this was described as a very rare, and endangered, species found only in isolated spots in Wales.

I rang the RSPB to report what I thought I’d seen and was then told about the re-introduction programme that was underway.  The story of this programme can be found on the RSPB web site at http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/r/redkite/conservation.aspx.

Along with many others in the area we have watched the steady expansion of the kites’ range and population.  First they became a regular sight over the golf club and then we started to get occasional sightings over Cookham.  During the early part of this century the kites were becoming so common over Cookham that one featured on the cover of “Birds in a Village – A century on” http://www.cookham.com/about/books/clews/birdsinavillage.htm.

By the summer of 2008 the kites had become a sufficiently common sight at home that I invested in a digital SLR to start taking photos of them and some of those are in the gallery on this site.  Doubtless many of my neighbours could produce better ones.  It is not uncommon now that on a summer’s afternoon 20-30 birds can be seen wheeling in a clear blue sky.  This behaviour, reminiscent of vultures circling, is reflected in their role as scavengers.  Historically they played a role in cleaning the streets of London when they were protected by royal decree, but they have also been subject to a bounty as vermin.  Ironically for such a graceful bird, their scavenging behaviour meant that they were the original shitehawk, this being their common name.

So why is the company named after these birds with their mixed historical reputation?  To be honest it is nothing to do with either gracefully soaring above the competition or scavenging every opportunity.  It is simply a reflection of the fact that we love watching them and to some extent the name roots us in our local geography.

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