The red kite is primarily a scavenger, taking a wide range of animal carrion including sheep, rabbits, birds and even waste from refuse dumps. In the past they were a common sight in some towns and cities where they scavenged amongst refuse. Kites also take live prey in the form of small mammals, birds and invertebrates.
Red kites tend to be monogamous and usually pair for life. A red kite's nest is an untidy arrangement of sticks, lodged in the fork of a tree, and often built on the base of an old crow nest. The nest is lined with sheep's wool and then 'decorated' with man-made materials such as pieces of paper, plastic or cloth. The red kite had a reputation for stealing garments left out to dry for use as nest decoration and Shakespeare referred to this habit when he wrote in 'The Winter's Tale' 'When the kite builds, look to lesser linen'. A clutch of one to four eggs is laid in April, and the bulk of the incubation duties are undertaken by the female. The male stays close to the nest at this stage, guarding against attacks by crows and other potential nest robbers. After about seven weeks the young birds leave the nest but remain dependant on the parent birds for food for a further three to four weeks. In contrast to the mainly site-faithful adults, some young red kites undertake long-distance movements and wandering individuals can turn up almost anywhere, often well away from the nearest breeding site.