Chough

Chough

©Margaret Holland

Chough

Scientific name: Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
As the only crow with a red bill and red legs, the all-black chough is easy to identify. But it's harder to spot: there are only small, coastal populations in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and the Isle of Man.

Species information

Statistics

Length: 38-40cm
Wingspan: 82cm
Weight: 310g
Average lifespan: 7 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Green under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

When to see

January to December

About

The chough lives on short, grazed grassland and coastal heathland where it probes the ground with its long, red bill for insects, such as leatherjackets and beetle larvae. Acrobatic in flight, it has a 'chee-ow' call which is similar to, but louder than, the Jackdaw's. Chough build nests in small colonies in crevices and fissures, on rock ledges and cliff faces, and even in abandoned buildings. They use roots, stems and heather, and line the nest with wool or hair. The female lays three to five eggs and both parents help to raise the chicks

How to identify

A small, glossy black crow, the chough is easily distinguished from the similar Jackdaw by its long, curved, red bill, red legs and entirely black plumage.

In our area

An exciting part of our new Wilder Kent vision is the reintroduction of species lost from Kent. The first of these took a step closer in spring 2019 as staff met with colleagues from Wildwood Trust, the Cornish Operation Chough, Durrell Wildlife Trust, University of Kent, Kent Downs AONB, White Cliffs Countryside Partnership and English Heritage to discuss the reintroduction of chough to Kent. We were very fortunate to have such expertise available to us as we met at Dover Castle and considered possible release sites and habitat requirements for these amazing, charismatic birds along the iconic White Cliffs of Dover.

These aerobatic corvids feed on invertebrates in animal dung and we believe the conservation grazing to restore chalk grassland in and around Dover makes for the perfect habitat, including our Kent Wildlife Trust Herdwick sheep grazing the castle defences.

You can currently see chough in Kent, on the Canterbury City coat of arms, and read of them ‘winging the midway air’ of the white cliffs in King Lear, these birds are both culturally and ecologically significant to Kent and we are very excited about the prospect of seeing them once again flying over the Kent coastline in the near future.

Distribution

A rare bird of south-west Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man. A tiny population has returned to the far west of Cornwall.

Did you know?

The chough is the symbol of Cornwall - it is on the Coat of Arms and, according to legend, King Arthur turned into a chough on his death. It was once so prevalent in the county that it was known as the 'Cornish chough'. Despite being extinct as a breeding bird in Cornwall for many years, a tiny population has recently returned to nest.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.