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Cornwall Chough Project

Chough perching on rock

After a long decline because of habitat loss and persecution, the last chough disappeared from Cornwall (and England) in 1973. They had last successfully bred in 1947.

In 2001, there was a small influx of wild choughs to southern England and three birds stayed on the Lizard in Cornwall. Since 2002, the now famous pioneering pair has nested every year at Southerly Point raising a total of 32 young so far. Many survive and some have raised their own young.

Choughs are vulnerable to disturbance and egg collectors. RSPB staff and volunteers protect nests night and day, and closely monitor the expanding population.

Historically, the southwest of the UK, especially Cornwall, was a stronghold for choughs. Their return is a milestone in terms of UK range recovery for this captivating crow. 

The Project ensures the future for choughs by working with landowners to restore grassland and heathland habitats along the coastal fringe. Grazing by suitable stock provides a chough-friendly mosaic of open, short grasslands where they can forage for invertebrates.

With choughs from the Gower turning up in north Devon and Somerset, and other Welsh birds visiting Cumbria and Lancashire, it may not be too long before they breed outside Cornwall.

Project objectives

  • Increase the amount and quality of chough friendly habitat around the coastal fringe. This is achieved through advisory work with farmers and landowners and by using agri-environment schemes to fund management
  • Safeguard nesting attempts
  • Monitor the population
  • Promote awareness of why managed habitats are good for wildlife and how they are great for people too
  • Take an overview of chough conservation across England in partnership with Natural England

Key dates so far

  • 2001: Choughs return naturally to Cornwall
  • 2002: First successful breeding in Cornwall (and England) since 1947
  • 2006: Two pairs of choughs raise young in Cornwall. Also first documented record of colour ringed Welsh choughs in England (seen in Somerset and north Devon)
  • 2007: Another 'first', a colour ringed Welsh bird seen in Lancashire
  • 2008: First chough chicks born in West Penwith, Cornwall, for 150 years
  • 2009: Four pairs of choughs nest in Cornwall. In the eight breeding seasons 2002 to 2009, 46 youngsters have fledged from Cornish nests

Work planned or underway

Habitat restoration and maintenance is a priority for chough conservation. The RSPB works with Natural England to target suitable areas for chough management. We provide advice to farmers and landowners to encourage grazing regimes to help chough and other wildlife.

RSPB staff and volunteers run a round-the-clock protection scheme to guard nests from disturbance and persecution, and at Southerly Point this is combined with a daytime 'chough watch point', helping visitors get good views of the birds. We work with local communities and schools to gain support for chough conservation and to secure the future for these iconic red-billed crows.

Results

  • 2002: One pair fledges three young
  • 2003: One pair fledges three young
  • 2004: One pair fledges four young
  • 2005: One pair fledges five young
  • 2006: Two pairs fledge eight young
  • 2007: Two pairs fledge nine young
  • 2008: Two pairs fledge six young
  • 2009: Two pairs fledge eight young (plus two very young pairs attempt but fail)
  • 2010: Six pairs attempt to breed, three pairs successfully raise nine young. 
  • 2011: Six pairs attempt to breed, four pairs successfully raise fifteen young.

Downloads

Management for choughs and coastal biodiversity in Cornwall

Management for choughs and coastal biodiversity in Cornwall

4.15Mb, PDF

A report explaining the need for grazing to maintain habitat for biodiversity and choughs in Cornwall

Date: 21 November 2012

Download

Cornish choughs: Celebrating their return

Cornish choughs: Celebrating their return

2.23Mb, PDF

Our latest booklet, celebrating 10 years of wild choughs breeding again in Cornwall

Date: 15 August 2011

Download

Paloresow Kernewek: Issue 1 - August 2011

Paloresow Kernewek: Issue 1 - August 2011

582Kb, PDF

The first edition of 'Paloresow Kernewek' (Cornish Choughs), a newsletter about Cornwall's special bird.

Date: 19 August 2011

Download

Who to contact

Claire Mucklow
Cornwall Projects Officer
E-mail: claire.mucklow@rspb.org.uk

Partners

The Cornwall Chough Project is part of Action for Birds in England, a conservation partnership between Natural England and the RSPB.

The National Trust is a partner in the Cornwall Chough Project.

Funding

The Cornwall Chough Project is part of Action for Birds in England, a conservation partnership between Natural England and the RSPB.

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