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Kites could be shot at airbase

Monday 9 June 2014

The Government's conservation body Natural England and RAF Benson are urging villagers in Benson, near Wallingford, not to put out food for red kites in their gardens.  Large numbers of kites, attracted by the food, mean that there is a higher risk of collision between the birds and aircraft from the base. This could result in human injury or death and death or injury to the birds as well. There have already been 4 collisions between kites and aircraft since 2012.

RAF Benson already carry out a number of measures to deter red kites from the airbase but despite this collisions have occurred. Natural England has issued a licence to the base to allow them to shoot red kites on the airfield if there is a risk they could collide with aircraft and there is no other way of avoiding it.

Back in August Natural England wrote to villagers to ask that they did not feed the kites, to prevent them from flocking in large numbers, but has had to contact them again as feeding did not appear to have declined.

Wing Commander Colin West, the officer commanding operations wing at RAF Benson, said: “A licence was issued to RAF Benson in June 2013 for the culling of red kites for flight safety purposes. 

“Thankfully, to date we have not used it and we hope that we don’t have to. However, a growing number of bird strikes, coupled with the size and nature of the red kite, mean that the threat to aircraft safety at RAF Benson has increased. 

“While all possible measures are being taken to discourage the birds from activity around the airfield, for our safety and for their own, these methods are being hampered by the local community feeding the birds.

“We would therefore urge, as do Natural England and the RSPB, that the red kites are not fed and are allowed to return to their natural hunting methods.”

The Chilterns Conservation Board discourages the feeding of red kites in general as there is plenty of naturally-available food for them in the countryside. If left to feed naturally they will disperse over a wider area rather than congregating in artificially-large flocks over towns or villages.

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