What are the latest developments in GPS tracking for UK's reintroduced red kite populations?

11 June 2024

For centuries, humans have been fascinated by the beauty and grace of birds. Indeed, learning about their behaviours, their movements, and their breeding habits has occupied countless hours of study and research. One such bird that has captivated our interest is the red kite. Renowned for its distinctive reddish-brown body, long wings and deeply forked tail, the red kite (milvus milvus) is a sight to behold. These birds are key players in the ecosystem and have been the focus of conservation efforts, especially in the UK. Thanks to advances in technology, tracking the movements and ranges of the red kite has never been more accurate. In this article, we will be focussing on the latest developments in GPS tracking for the UK's reintroduced red kite populations.

Harnessing the Power of GPS Technology

In the past, studying bird movements was a difficult and often imprecise task. Scientists would band birds or use radio telemetry, but these methods had their limitations. Enter GPS technology. GPS tracking devices have revolutionized the way we study bird movements. These devices are small, lightweight, and can be attached to the bird's back with little to no harm to the bird.

For red kites, this means that we are now able to collect data on their daily movements, their ranges, and even their hunting habits. For example, a study published on Crossref and Google Scholar revealed that GPS tracked red kites in the UK had a home range of approximately 3.8 km² during the breeding season. This valuable data can help scientists to better understand the breeding habits and needs of these birds.

The Value of Data in Understanding Kite Movements

The data gathered from GPS tracking is invaluable in our understanding of red kite movements. By tracking individual kites, we can build a detailed picture of their life, including where they hunt for food, where they breed, and how far they travel.

The data can also reveal patterns in their movements. For example, in a study available on PMC, it was found that red kites tend to stay within a certain range of their breeding area, rarely venturing out of this area. This information helps conservation efforts to focus on preserving these key areas to ensure the survival of the species.

The Reintroduction of Red Kites in the UK

The red kite has a tumultuous history in the UK. Once a common sight, they were driven to the brink of extinction due to persecution and habitat loss. However, in recent years, there has been a concerted effort to reintroduce these magnificent birds back into their native ranges.

GPS tracking has been instrumental in these efforts. By monitoring the movements of reintroduced birds, scientists can ensure that they are adapting well to their new environment. Furthermore, GPS data can be used to identify suitable release sites and monitor the success of reintroduction programmes.

The Future of GPS Tracking for Red Kites

The future of GPS tracking for red kites in the UK looks promising. The technology is only becoming more advanced and more precise, allowing for even more detailed data to be collected. Scientists are also exploring the use of other technologies, such as drones and satellite imagery, to complement GPS tracking.

In addition, the data from GPS tracking is not just valuable for scientists. It can also be used to engage the public in conservation efforts. For example, some organizations have created interactive maps that allow people to follow the movements of individual red kites. This not only raises awareness of the species but also fosters a deeper appreciation for these birds.

The Impact of GPS Tracking on Red Kite Conservation

Ultimately, the biggest impact of GPS tracking on red kite conservation is the data. The data collected provides a wealth of information that can be used to inform conservation strategies and policies.

For example, by understanding the movements of red kites, we can identify key areas that need to be protected. This includes both their breeding areas and their hunting grounds. Furthermore, by tracking the success of reintroduced kites, we can refine our reintroduction strategies to ensure the best possible outcome for these birds.

The conservation of red kites is a complex task, requiring a multi-faceted approach. However, with the help of advanced technology like GPS tracking, we are one step closer to ensuring the survival of this magnificent species.

Advanced Applications of GPS Technology in Red Kite Tracking

Technology is an ever-evolving beast. In the realm of ecological studies, it has been a game-changer. The advent of GPS technology has undeniably revolutionised the way we study red kites. These satellite tags are compact, unobtrusive and remarkably precise. They have allowed scientists to gather extensive data on the daily routines, hunting habits and ranges of these birds.

One in-depth study found on Crossref and Google Scholar utilised GPS technology to track UK red kites during their breeding season. The results, available in a free article, revealed an average home range of approximately 3.8 km². This vital information aids researchers in understanding the mating customs and requirements of these birds. Moreover, this data can be used to secure and preserve their settlement areas.

Exploring the power of GPS tracking even further, scientists are considering the integration of other technologies. The use of drones and satellite imagery is on the horizon, promising to offer complementary data to GPS tracking. The future of red kite tracking holds exciting possibilities.

The Role of GPS Tracking in Public Engagement and Conservation Policies

Beyond purely scientific applications, the data from GPS tracking can be exploited to involve the public in conservation efforts. A few organisations have crafted interactive maps based on GPS data that enable people to track individual red kites. This innovative approach raises awareness of the species and helps to instil a lasting appreciation for these birds in the heart of the public.

The conservation of red kites is a multifaceted mission. The data derived from GPS tracking offers tremendous support to this cause. By analysing the extensive data from GPS tracking, crucial areas that need protection can be identified. These areas include breeding regions and hunting grounds.

In addition, monitoring the movements of reintroduced birds helps in confirming their successful adaptation. GPS data has also proven useful in determining suitable release sites. By tracking the success rate of reintroduced kites, we can refine and improve our reintroduction strategies.


In conclusion, the impact of GPS tracking on red kite conservation is substantial and wide-reaching. The data collected is a treasure trove of information, shaping conservation strategies and policies. The application of GPS technology, paired with future technological advancements like drones and satellite imagery, promises to bring a new dimension to our understanding and protection of red kites.

Moreover, GPS tracking is a powerful tool for public engagement. Interactive maps and similar applications not only inform the public about the life of red kites, but they also inspire a deeper appreciation for this species and the necessity of conservation efforts.

Looking forward, we can anticipate a future where the successful conservation of the red kite is well within our grasp. By harnessing the power of technology and data, we can strive to ensure the survival and prosperity of this captivating species. The journey of studying and conserving red kites is an exciting one, filled with challenges and rewards alike. Through continuous efforts and advances in technology, we will be better equipped to understand, protect, and coexist with these magnificent birds.