Retired red kite rescuers help raptor diet research
14 September 2023
A South Oxfordshire couple who made a habit out of feeding red kites after finding one of the birds of prey injured have helped to support a University research project
Hassan and Sue Omran are both 72 years old and retired. They live in Tokers Green, where they have been feeding red kites for almost a decade. Recently, they contacted researchers from the University of Reading and the University of Roehampton, who are investigating red kite-feeding trends in Reading and the surrounding areas.
Their favourite pastime developed after they found an injured red kite one day in July 2015. The bird could not fly away, so Hassan took it home and contacted an organisation that supports injured birds of prey. The organisation’s volunteers said the red kite was suffering from starvation. They helped the bird recover and it was later released where it was originally found in Tokers Green.
After this, Hassan and Sue started feeding the numerous red kites that flew over their house chicken so they did not go hungry like the one they rescued. They have been doing this ever since but only feed them intermittently so the kites are not dependent on their handouts.
Reading loves red kites
The couple’s story has helped to inform a new research project investigating Reading’s relationships with red kites. A 2015 study suggested residents love these particular birds of prey, as researchers found that up to one in twenty households had fed red kites. To understand what has changed since then, the new project has involved looking at the impacts feeding red kites has on the birds, humans, and the environment.
Juliette Waterman, a researcher from the University of Reading, said: “Stories like Hassan and Sue’s are a great addition to the data we have collected. It confirms what we have long suspected of Reading’s red kites - that they are eating a lot more chicken thanks to the generosity of local residents.”
Herre De Bondt, research student at the University of Roehampton, said: “Hassan and Sue’s story not only shows how people may start caring about wildlife, but it also tells us what logic people base their feeding practices on. Gaining a better understanding of this is crucial if we want to ensure that people are feeding red kites well.”
Hassan and Sue’s experience was one of many stories about red kite feeding routines that the researchers received.
Other stories contributed by local residents included:
● One participant has one red kite that regularly visits him for food. The bird is the only one that he feeds.
● One participant feeds the birds in her front garden so her neighbours can watch red kites swoop down to collect their food.
● Three participants were vegan or vegetarian, but despite this, they chose to feed meat products (chicken wings, cat/dog food) to red kites.
The University of Reading and University of Roehampton’s research is set to be published next year.