Even to a layman’s eye they’re also every bit the raptor. Their beaks are curled, their eyes are sharp and their broad 175cm wingspan and even kilo of body weight (in the case of the heavier female, at least) marks them as fierce and handsome creatures entirely at home in the wilds of the Welsh mountains.
Seeing them glide peaceably above the open spaces of the Black Mountain, it is in fact difficult to imagine them existing anywhere else. But that’s where their history may surprise you. Red Kites are actually more at home in the English lowlands, and in Tudor times were common even in the capital. It was only a catastrophic population collapse at the start of the 20th century – fuelled by inadvertent poisoning, egg collection, predation by gamekeepers and the rabbit myxomatosis epidemic – that drove them from their natural habitat.
The hills of mid-Wales nurtured the last few breeding pairs, with a group of around 30 such couples in the 1990s now flourishing to more than 300. Inspiringly, across the nation there are estimated to be more than 1,600 pairs, and growing. This is in no small part thanks to the Red Kite Feeding Centre in Llandeusant, which since 2002 has attracted a daily crowd of around 50 of these spectacular birds and local buzzards too.
Feeds take place at 3pm BST (2pm outside of summer) and there’s a £4 entry fee for adults (£2 for under 16s).
Red Kite Feeding Centre, The Red Kite Café, Llanddeusant, Llangadog SA19 9YG (GRID REF: SN771265), redkiteswales.co.uk