Choughlets or choughlings?

Whichever you prefer, Kernow has some!

On Friday, Tony Cross paid his annual visit to say hello to the wild choughs of Cornwall and to find out what they have been up to.

Choughs lay between 3 – 5 eggs each year and the number can depend on age, experience, weather, disturbance or whether they can find enough food.  The number can sometimes be less than 3 if any of those factors are working against them.  They reach maturity at 3 years old but in Cornwall they start breeding at 2 years old.

All six nests were visited in one day and this is what happened in nest visit order:

Nest 1 – this pair have a bumper full clutch of 5 chicks.  This is the Lizard pair and their second year at breeding – last year they had 3.  They moved house in the spring (twice!) and the clever birds have set up their new home in a really good spot so hopefully they will have a successful fledging too.

Nest 2 – second year of breeding and only one chick in the nest.  They had three last year so we were expecting three plus due to maturity and experience.
choughletlingNest 3 – First year breeding attempt and they are both two years old.  They have picked a very good nest site. So good, Tony couldn’t get to the nest in time so this could end up being a bit of a surprise for us come fledging time!
Nest 4 – This pair have had four chicks this year.  The past few years they have had a full clutch of five. Our oldest breeding pair of choughs in Cornwall and the oldest male in Cornwall at 11 years old.  This is their seventh/eighth year of breeding.

Nest 5 – This pair have had two chicks.  It is their third year of breeding and their third time of producing two chicks!

Nest 6 – a new pair who have produced one chick.  The male is an older bird who hasn’t bred before but the female is only two.  This site is a busy site from visitors to the area and the pair struggled to get going.

That is it for another year.  Here is a picture of Tony doing his thing!

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Seven becomes six

We have to report that one of the seven pairs of breeding choughs has sadly lost its chicks.  Watchers saw a raven entering the nest area and although nothing was seen in its bill on its way out (and the choughs did all they could to fend the bird off) the pair have abandoned the nest. This probably means the raven returned and got all the chicks later (if it had not been in already).  Watchers monitoring another pair have also seen a raven enter their nest cave.  This is new behaviour to us by the ravens, they often nest in the vicinity and pester the choughs regularly but so far have not been known to go into the more tucked away nest sites, (one site with easier access had eggs predated by a raven a few years ago). The ravens are certainly bolder than normal – is this in response to less food around elsewhere I wonder?

The choughs that lost their chicks were seen prospecting and taking nest materials into a new site a few days later but it is highly unlikely they will make a second attempt.   On the plus side, without youngsters themselves they will hopefully act as guardians for any young birds that come into their territory in the months to come- we know that young birds do better if they have older birds to associate with.




Great news! It looks like all 7 nests that we are watching have hatchlings!

Apart from a few still broody females keeping close to their babies, most are now making regular trips with their mates to feed their young.

It will be a little while till those chicks venture outside of the nest but for now we are very happy they have all got safely though this vital stage.

Some of the chough watchers have been lucky to see the choughs bring out the broken egg shells.

Photo by Geoff Rogers

Photo by Geoff Rogers

Photo by Geoff Rogers

Photo by Geoff Rogers

Photo by Dave Brown

Photo by Dave Brown