Red kite fledglings rescued after becoming 'waterlogged'

Red Kites from Tiggywinkles Hospital Members of the public found the kites lying saturated on the ground

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A wildlife hospital is struggling to find room for 18 waterlogged red kites, rescued during recent wet weather.

The fledglings, whose feathers had been weighed down by water, are being cared for at Tiggywinkles Hospital near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

Founder Les Stocker said: "Juvenile kites seem unable to take wet weather. They leave their nests, get wet and can literally fall out of the trees."

The kites will be released when the weather is drier, he added.

The young kites were all found by members of the public during the past two weeks, and taken to the centre.

'Unprecedented numbers'

"Once they've fallen out of trees, they just lie on the ground, soaking wet, and playing dead," Mr Stocker said.

How do birds fare in rain?

  • Barn owls do not hunt in rain as their velvety feathers get soaked, making silent flight impossible
  • Little owls practice "rain bathing", an elaborate dance that cleans all of their feathers
  • Swifts can't feed in wet UK weather because of the lack of insects in the air
  • Swallows need rain so they can use mud to build nests. Prolonged wet periods lead to chick starvation as numbers of flying insects are low
  • Hummingbirds can forage in stormy weather by changing to a more horizontal posture and beating their wings faster

Source: BBC Nature

"For some reason they won't get up.

"They are not the brightest of birds, but they are the most beautiful."

He said having 18 youngsters in the hospital at the same time was "unprecedented".

"Usually we get two or three a year. Now we've got 18 juveniles plus the usual adults that we are looking after."

Paul Stancliffe, from the British Trust for Ornithology, said young birds could easily fall out of trees when wet, as their first feathers were "very poor quality".

Their second feathers would be much tougher and more waterproof, he said.

"Red kites are particularly susceptible to getting waterlogged as they are large birds and their first feathers are extremely fluffy," he added.

Mr Stocker said he was concerned the centre might have to take in more kites if the weather did not improve soon.

"It's very wet and we don't know how many are out there lying around on the ground. We're asking local walkers to keep an eye out for them."

Once the weather clears, the fledglings will be released when they have gained weight and "a bit more sense", Mr Stocker added.

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