A SCHOOL yesterday became the first in the North-East to adopt one of the rare red kites introduced to the region earlier this year.

The birds of prey, which have a 5ft wingspan, had been extinct from Northern England for at least 150 years until 20 were re-introduced into the Derwent Valley, in Gateshead, in July.

Project managers have been so overwhelmed by the interest in the kites initiative that they have launched an adopt-a-kite scheme for schools.

Rowlands Gill Infants and Nursery School was the first school to adopt one of the spectacular birds, and Nick Baker, presenter of TV's Really Wild Show, handed pupils their certificate of adoption yesterday.

Northern Kites project manager Keith Bowey said: "The interest in the kites has been phenomenal, so we have decided to give schools the opportunity to become involved in this exciting project."

Each of the kites released so far can be recognised by a unique numbered wing tag, and Rowlands Gill school has adopted Kite No.1 - although pupils can choose their own name for the bird. They will get regular updates on the activities of their bird.

The kites are being adopted on a first-come basis, but despite a random draw to pair birds with schools, it seems Kite No.1 and Rowlands Gill school were destined to link up.

Mr Bowey said: "I have received reports of Kite No. 1 soaring over Rowlands Gill, on one occasion right over the school. I hope it is a good omen of a long and rewarding link between kite and school."