The White Red Kite

The White Red Kite
The white red kite looks very white against her surroundings
This white red kite (the correct term is Leucistic) is a frequent visitor to the red kite feeding station. Leucistic means that the colouration is mainly pure white and not the usual reds and blacks of a 'normal' kite. Leucism differs from albinism in that pigment is not entirely absent - in most cases it is at least retained in the eyes. This Leucistic individual is mainly white, and has blue eyes - not to be confused for Albino which means the lack of colouring evidenced by pink eyes. This female white red kite was hatched in 2003 just thirty miles west of Gigrin and since fledgling had not been seen for some eight months before turning up in the winter.

On its first visit to the feeding station it was chased out of sight by the regular kites and crows. Leucistic birds are at a major disadvantage as their light colour attracts the unwanted attentions of both red kites and corvids who rob and generally harangue the unfortunate bird purely because it is different. The kite returned the next day but did not attempt to enter the feeding area and instead played with the young kites that were around the feeding site. The bird gained confidence from these encounters and came in to feed right at the end of the following day. This was a successful venture so the kite then moved further up the 'pecking order'.

Leucistic red kites rarely survive very long under natural conditions but having found the red kite feeding station it had a much better chance. It is often be seen feeding on the ground in front of the hides in the late afternoon and as we had been told about her we waited to see her. In Wales around one percent of hatchlings show leucistic tendencies. Lack of melanin pigment in the skin of animals is a relatively rare genetic trait and is evident in red kites due to the very small gene pool from which they are derived here in Wales. There are no records of white kites breeding.