One of the first red kites released into Thames Valley dies
One of the first red kites brought to the UK as part of a successful reintroduction programme in the early 1990s has died.
The bird, called Aragon, was found injured outside a school in Carterton, Oxfordshire, and rescued by bird sanctuary owner Chrissie Gaines.
After he died of his injuries she found he was from the second batch of chicks brought over from Spain in 1994.
Aragon, aged 29, is believed to have been one of the UK's oldest red kites.
By the 1980s red kites were one of only three globally-threatened species in the UK, but after their reintroduction they now have an estimated 1,800 breeding pairs.
Aragon was originally released on the Wormsley Estate in Buckinghamshire and has stayed in the Thames Valley area near the Chilterns.
Ms Gaines, who runs Chrissie's Owls and a sanctuary for rescued birds of prey, received a phone call from staff at Gateway Primary School in Carterton after he was discovered on a path.
She said: "We think he'd been attacked by other birds, he was very badly injured and in a mess when I took him to the vets, they gave him antibiotics and I took him home.
"I had a couple of sleepless nights with him and he seemed to be picking up, but then things changed sadly.
"I realised he had a ring on him and contacted a friend with the number to find out more."
That's when Ms Gaines discovered the bird's history, and that the ring was fitted by Dr Mike Pienowski, who was part of the original team who reintroduced the red kites in the 1990s.
She said: "I couldn't believe it, we know the conservation project to release the kites has been a success, but had Aragon not been found we wouldn't know how old the original group had lived to - we think he's now the oldest red kite in the UK as the last one recorded was 25.
"In all my years working with birds I've never heard anything like it, usually birds don't live very long when they're released back into the wild.
"So he mustn't be forgotten, bless him, he's part of history."
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