French red kites population assessment in January 2017

After two outstanding winters, the 2017 counting falls back down to a more "classical" level although there is still a considerable population in the country. For instance, in the Massif Central, 1200 birds have been counted, which is quite a consequent number, but 2 000 less birds than in 2016. Cantal registered its third best counting whereas the voles proliferation dropped. Haute-Loire set its new record with 450 birds; low snow falls before the counting favored this situation. For 5 years now, Ardèche hosts more than 100 birds. A few birds spent winter in the Var, and an unchanging number of birds stayed in Crau. In the north-east region, headcount is low in Champagne but Côte-d’Or hosts a nice number of 136 birds. Even more occasional, almost 150 birds were found in Franche-Comté (3rd best counting) and about 30 in Alsace for the 3rd year in a row. Corsica breaks a new record with 514 Red kites. The great coordination between Béarn and Pays Basque led to a great counting of 2 000 birds in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques. Once again, 500 birds are counted in Gers and 92 in Pyrénées-Orientales. Thus, the entire Pyrenean chain also beats its own record with 5 550 red kites, that being the national total of the 4 first years of counting. In total, 9 413 red kites have been counted in France on winter 2017.
We also note 6 black kites observations, including 4 on Saint-Flour (with an “oriental” juvenile (Milvus migrans x Milvus migrans lineatus)), and a hybrid Milvus migrans x Milvus milvus. Another young black kite was observed in Ariège during winter. Those observations could be a sign of an increasing black kites wintering population in France. This could be linked to European bird settlement and to Asian birds crossing the country during their migration.
You can find here the final counting by department, and you will find the maps on the right.
We thank all the volunteers (here is the list) who confront harsh climatic condition every winter to make this counting possible.

Thanks to Margaux Boyer for her great help for producing this national synthesis.

In case of any mistake in this review, please let us know.

Romain Riols (LPO Auvergne), Margaux Boyer et Fabienne David (LPO Mission rapaces)