The RAF has warned that people are endangering military aircraft by feeding a bird of prey that roams the area near one of their bases.

A spokesperson for RAF Benson, near Oxford, says that the number of red kites are increasing in Oxfordshire – causing helicopters to re-route to avoid them.

The birds are known to cause more damage to aircrafts than other birds if hit in a birdstrike.

The military base has already seen two birdstrikes in the last year – with one involving a red kite.

Another incident saw an aircraft forced to re-route after being “surrounded” by 15 of the large birds of prey that can measure between 24 and 26 inches long.

The base has urged members of the public not to feed the birds, along with local parish and town councils in Cholsey and Wallingford.

An RAF spokesman said: “Big birds of prey and aircraft are never a good mix.

“RAF Benson has an active wildlife management plan to mitigate birdstrike risk for its helicopters, this includes asking the local community to help, by not feeding kites in the vicinity of the aerodrome.

“This strategy is fully endorsed by Natural England, as it also helps the birds avoid the risk of being hit by our aircraft.”

Bird control measures often don’t work on red kites due to how high they fly above the airfield’s wildlife control operatives.

A meeting was held on Wallingford Town Council on August 21 with group captain Christian Royston-Airey, station commander of RAF Benson, explaining the significant and costly damage that could be caused to aircraft by a bird strike.

One resident reported that he had “received a right old thumb on the head” when a red kite swooped them at Bull Croft park.

The council have erected around 20 posters in the Kinecroft, the Bull Croft, and the moorings by the River Thames which warned people against feeding the birds.

Councillor Steve Holder said no further incidents had been reported since the campaign began.

He said: “We’re obviously not going to get anyone calling up to say they used to feed the red kites and now don’t, but hopefully it’s hit a nerve and they have been convinced to stop by guilt.

“They’ve been given an indication of what happens when you do feed them.”

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