Wormsley is very pleased to host a book launch for Dr Mike Pienkowski of his publication ‘When the Kite Builds – How and Why we restored red kites across Britain’. He has invited a small group of press and interested parties on Thursday, 16th of March, for the launch, followed by lunch.

The Red Kite is a native species that had been eradicated from England over the centuries and in August 1989, five kites were released onto Wormsley – this was the first release in England and was kept secret for some time. The book tells this story and how the birds have thrived and spread.

About the Book

In 2020, looking back over more than 30 years of the project, RSPB described the Red Kite project as “the biggest species success story in UK conservation history!”, noting also: “The Red Kite introduction project has been a fantastic example of conservation in actionand is the result of really effective partnership working, which we’re proud to be part of. It’s been amazing

to see a species once persecuted to near extinction
in this country, brought back and welcomed by local communities, with local economies reaping the dividends of the return of this iconic species. In the 1980s, anyone wanting to see a Red Kite had to make a special pilgrimage to a handful of sites. Today it is a daily sight for millions of people. In a few short decades we have taken a species from the brink of extinction, to the UK being home to almost 10% of the entire world population.”

English Nature’s Chairman, Tony Juniper, said “Thanks to this pioneering reintroduction programme in the Chilterns, increased legal protection and collaboration amongst partners, the Red Kite stands out as a true conservation success story. The flagship Red Kite reintroduction project paved the way for further species re-introductions, helping to reverse the historic deterioration of our natural environment and our precious species that inhabit it.”

JNCC, said: “Thirty years ago the reintroduction of a lost species was a radical act. Thanks to pioneering projects like the Chiltern Red Kites, it is now a standard tool in the nature conservation toolkit.” But the project’s success was a close-run thing.

In the Middle Ages, Red Kites were common sights across the British countryside and cities, where they kept the streets clear of carrion – and were frequently mentioned in Shakespeare’s works. Later changes in attitude led to their extermination in England, Scotland and Ireland and reduced to a tiny population in Wales. They were one of only three globally vulnerable bird species occurring in Britain.

Order Online

This book:

  • Is by the Chairman of the experimental project to reintroduce kites to England and Scotland.
  • Describes why the decision was taken and how it was implemented, with international help.
  • Examines the success of the experiment, despite many challenges, leading to expansion.
  • Follows the spread across Britain and to Ireland.
  • Explores the outcomes, not just for Red Kites, but the example for other species, the fight against illegal persecution and on public attitudes.

Foreword by Rt Hon. the Lord Randall of Uxbridge PC (preview)


A conservation success story – perhaps like no other in the UK. And this book is an insider’s account of that success story. The author sets himself the task of writing an accurate and readable account of two decades of work and he succeeds.

– Mark Avery

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This book will, I am sure, inspire a new generation.

– Barry Larking (ECOS, the journal of the British Association of Nature Conservationists)

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If you are interested in conservation and reintroduction, this book provides a much wider knowledge base than just Red Kites, and is a great in-practice example of how these projects work, and the dedication required to pull them off. When the Kite Builds provides such a wide breadth of knowledge and history that I truly don’t see how this book wouldn’t be enjoyed by any reader.

– Antonia Devereux (WILD Magazine – Students for sustainability)

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