The Return

Early in the spring of 2001, there was a small influx of wild choughs along the south coast of England, from Portland in Dorset to the Isles of Scilly.  A group of three subsequently took up residence on the Lizard. The origin of these wild birds was the subject of much debate at the time, but we now know from DNA work that the birds almost certainly came from Ireland.

In 2002, two of these birds paired and raised young, the first choughs born in the wild in Cornwall for more than 50 years. That pair continued breeding successfully each year until 2013 - raising 46 youngsters, many of which have gone on to raise families of their own elsewhere in Cornwall.

There have been many milestones along the way. It wasn't until 2006 that a second pair (a male offspring of the Lizard pair, and an incoming wild female) successfully bred raising three young.

In 2008, another pair successfully raised young in West Penwith, the first time here in 150 years.

In 2012 choughs bred for the first time since the 1940s on the north coast not far from Newquay.

Over the last few years there have been many non Cornish bred choughs turning up, of particular note was a chough from Brittany was seen in the spring of 2014.

Since 2002, 132 chicks have fledged from Cornish nests.

Not all young choughs can be expected to survive as the mortality rate can be quite high within the corvid family. Despite this, Cornwall's birds are faring as well as their cousins in Wales, Scotland and Brittany.

Behind the scenes, work is continuing to encourage farmers to manage suitable habitat around the coast for choughs. Grazing is essential to maintain the short open grass in which choughs probe to find their invertebrate food. Grazing also enables a host of small flowering plants to thrive, keeps scrub from invading the open coastal grassland and heathland areas and is good for many other species too.

Various suitable breeds of animal graze the coastal cliffs including Shetland ponies, Highland cattle, north Devon cattle and sheep. Thanks must go to all those farmers and landowners who support the choughs by managing their land in suitable ways.