PEOPLE feeding Red Kites could be behind the birds attacking walkers and picnickers at a south Oxfordshire beauty spot, according to a wildlife trust.

Several visitors to Watlington Hill and the surrounding countryside have reported being injured by the birds, which were reintroduced to the area in 1989.

Watlington parish councillor Roger Beattie said he had heard of many cases of the creatures targeting those with food.

He said: "People say they can't hurt you but that just isn't true. They are big birds with sharp claws and a wingspan of around six feet.

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"A couple of years ago I was with friends for a birthday tea at Watlington Hill and my friend has his head quite badly scratched by one who took his sandwich."

He added the parish council was taking measures to provide extra shading above picnic tables at Watlington Recreation Ground to deter the birds.

Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust ecology officer Colin Williams told BBC Oxford earlier this week: "Problems with the Red Kites are where they become quite tame, where people have fed them.

"They're opportunist birds so if they do have the opportunity they will take scraps. They're not attacking people they are just trying to find food."

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A notice put up at Watlington Hill by ranger Matthew Bond echoed this, saying: “Please do not put food out for these birds.

"This encourages them to steal food from picnics and even people’s hands!"

A further warning on the National Trust website states people are free to see, photograph or video the Red Kites but are asked not to offer them ‘any sort of food’.

It explain the birds can survive in the Chilterns without ‘artificial feeding’ as there is plenty of natural food and it is ‘not necessary to supplement their natural diet’.

The trust goes on to explain: “Providing additional food can prevent the growing population from spreading naturally, so the birds learn to cluster in large numbers where food is offered.

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“In fact it is possible that putting out food could ultimately lead to an unsustainably high population of red kites, reliant on human hand-outs.”

It adds: “There is also growing evidence that providing food for kites can change the kites’ behaviour, leading to some individual birds losing their natural wariness of humans so they become a nuisance to people.

"The birds cannot differentiate between food that is deliberately put out for them and visitors’ picnics.

“The National Trust, the BTO, the RSPB and the Chilterns Conservation Board all urge the public not to feed red kites.

"We believe they should be left to feed naturally, thus enabling them to establish a naturally sustainable population level, and to maintain a nutritionally balanced natural diet."