A “petrified” toddler was left with cuts to the back of her head after being attacked by a red kite while she ate food at an outdoor birthday party.

The three-year-old girl was clawed by the large bird of prey as it swooped down over her head, attempting to take a cupcake from a picnic bench at Watlington Park, near Stokenchurch.

Parents quickly took their children home, ending the party early, as they feared another attack, with more red kites circling above.

Little Ava Edgar-Francis has now been left fearing the birds, which her mother says is becoming a growing problem around the Stokenchurch area.

Debbie Francis of Slade Road said: “She was completely hysterical. It was such a shock and she is now petrified every time she sees a big bird in the sky.

“We had gone to the party and she was playing in the park with some of the other children.

"A little bit later we all went to sit down at some picnic tables and that is when it happened.

"I didn’t even see it come and hadn’t realised it had caught Ava until one of my friends said I better look at her head.

“She had two really nasty cuts on her head and is completely traumatised.”

It is not the first time the family has had a close encounter with the protected species, with Ms Francis’ teenage son once having a sandwich snatched from his hand while eating on a school playground.

Bucks Free Press:

On another occasion, while preparing for a family barbecue, a red kite swooped down and stole food from the hot grill.

“It is a problem that appears to be getting worse, according to the family, with concerns growing that nearby residents are feeding the birds.

Ms Francis said: “There is a lot of talk on Facebook about it, and many suspect that other people are feeding them because they like seeing them come down.

“But, they’re dangerous. So many people have said how close they’ve been to people and pets.”

The birds were saved from national extinction by one of the world's longest running protection programmes, and has now been successfully re-introduced to England and Scotland.

However, the Bird charity the RSPB are now discouraging people from feeding the birds of prey as they continue to thrive across Bucks.

“This is very unusual in our experience.”

They added: “We discourage people from feeding the red kites in their gardens and public places.

“The kites are thriving in their natural environment, eating their natural diet throughout the year.

“The revival of red kites is a great conservation success story and luckily there are many places now where people can enjoy this amazing spectacle, without feeding them.”