Please note: This discussion topic is one of a set about species that are endemic or nearly endemic to the European Union (EU), and whose status in the EU therefore effectively determines their global status. To ensure consistency between the 2020 global and EU Red List assessments of these species, this set of topics is being fast-tracked through BirdLife’s Globally Threatened Bird Forums to inform decisions on the EU (and global) status of relevant species, which must be finalised and communicated to the European Commission by mid-April 2020. Topics on other species will be posted on the Forums shortly, for discussion later in the spring, as per usual. The results of the 2020 global Red List update for birds will be published by IUCN and BirdLife in early December.
Red Kite Milvus milvus is virtually confined to western and central Europe, with just a small minority of its global population outside this range, in pockets of E and SE Europe and possibly still in NW Africa. The European Union (EU) holds around 95% of the European (and therefore global) breeding population, which in around 2012 was concentrated in Germany (c. 50%), Spain (c. 15%) and France (c. 10%) (BirdLife International 2015).
Globally, this species has an extremely large range (>11,000,000 km2), and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criteria (B and D2). Its population size is also very large (>50,000 mature individuals; BirdLife International 2015), and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criteria (C and D1). Therefore, the only potentially relevant IUCN Red List Criterion is A, which relates to reductions in population size. When last assessed, the species’s population was estimated to be declining at a rate of >25% over three generations, thus approaching the threshold for Vulnerable (>30%) under Criterion A. Hence, the species is currently listed as Near Threatened under Criterion A2bce+3bce+4bce (past, future and present declines).
In late 2019, all 28 EU Member States were obliged to complete their second 6-yearly report to the European Commission (EC) under Article 12 of the EU Birds Directive, including their latest information on the sizes and trends of the populations and ranges of all naturally occurring wild bird species. Under an EC contract to evaluate the EU population status of each species, BirdLife has now analysed these new data, which indicate that this species’s population is no longer declining. Indeed, it is now increasing in virtually every country within its range, at a rate that means that earlier declines (since 1980) have been more than overcome. Overall, the data indicate that the population has increased by more than 30% over the last decade, and by more than 80% over the last three generations (c. 32 years, based on an estimated generation length of 10.7 years; Bird et al. 2020). Germany (43%), France (8%) and Spain (7%) still hold significant populations, all of which are now stable or increasing; but the most significant changes have involved the burgeoning populations in the United Kingdom (16%), Sweden (11%) and Switzerland (9%), which together now hold more than one third of the total estimated global population of c. 35,000 pairs (A. Aebischer in litt. 2020). Many Red Kites are also now remaining on or near their breeding grounds in winter, rather than migrating south to Iberia, which partly explains the declining numbers recorded wintering in parts of Spain.
Like many other European birds, this species still faces threats in certain parts of its range, including agricultural intensification, deteriorating food availability, collisions, electrocution and poisoning (e.g. Sergio et al. 2019; Tavecchia et al. 2012; Tenan et al. 2012; Walker et al. 2019). Analyses of data from the German population show long-term declines in both juvenile and adult survival (Katzenberger et al. 2019). However, at the global population level, these factors are currently limiting its continued recovery and range expansion, rather than driving an overall decline.
As this species’s global population is no longer declining, but rather increasing rapidly, it therefore no longer approaches the threshold for listing under Criterion A, and should be reclassified from Near Threatened to Least Concern.
Relevant comments and information on this fast-track topic are welcome by 8 April 2020, please.
Please note that this forum topic is not designed to be a general discussion about the ecology of the species, but rather a discussion of the species’s Red List status. Therefore, please ensure your comments are relevant to the species’s Red List status and the information requested. By submitting a comment, you confirm that you agree to the BirdLife Forums’ Comment Policy.
Bird, J.P., Martin, R., Akçakaya, H.R., Gilroy, J., Burfield, I.J., Garnett, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Şekercioğlu, Ç.H. & Butchart, S.H. (2020). Generation lengths of the world’s birds and their implications for extinction risk. Conservation Biology. https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13486
BirdLife International (2015) European Red List of Birds: Red Kite Milvus milvus. http://datazone.birdlife.org/userfiles/file/Species/erlob/summarypdfs/22695072_milvus_milvus.pdf
Katzenberger, J., Gottschalk, E., Balkenhol, N. and Waltert, M., 2019. Long-term decline of juvenile survival in German Red Kites. Journal of Ornithology 160: 337-349.
Sergio, F.; Tanferna, A.; Chicano, J.; Tavecchia, G.; J. Blas & Hiraldo, F. (2019) Protected areas under pressure: decline, redistribution, local eradication and projected extinction of a threatened predator in Doñana National Park. Endangered Species Research 38: 189-204.
Tavecchia; G., Adrover, J.; Muñoz Navarro, A.; Pradel R. (2012) Modelling mortality causes in longitudinal data in the presence of tag loss: application to raptor poisoning and electrocution. Journla of Applied Ecology 49: 297-305.
Tenan, S.; Adrover, J.; Muñoz Navarro, A.; Sergio, F.; Tavecchia, G. (2012). Demographic consequences of poison-related mortality in a threatened bird of prey. PLoS ONE 7(11): e49187.
Walker, L.A.; Jaffe, J.E.; Barnett, E.A; Chaplow, J.S.; Charman, S.; Giela, A.; Hunt, A.G.; Jones, A.; Pereira, M.G.; Potter, E.D.; Sainsbury, A.W.; Sleep, D.; Senior, C.; Sharp, E.A.; Vyas, D.S; Shore, R.F.. (2019) Anticoagulant rodenticides in red kites (Milvus milvus) in Britain in 2017 and 2018. Lancaster, NERC/Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, 28pp. (CEH project no. C06940, C05191).