Chough flying over cliffs at RSPB South Stack Cliffs

Habitat and food

Typically, the chough prefers places with short pasture less than 5 cm in height, and soft soil it can probe with its long bill to find food.

What a chough needs

High abundance of accessible invertebrates in and on the soil in these places is of paramount importance. 

It thrives where low intensity livestock farming systems occur close to suitable nesting sites on rock faces, in caves and in old buildings. In Britain and Ireland this combination is only found in the wilder and more remote west coasts and some adjacent inland areas.

Dung invertebrates are an important source of food. In winter, particularly when other ground is frozen, sites such as soft cliffs, strandlines where washed up seaweed contains insects, and even carcasses containing maggots are visited. Stubble fields with spilt grains of barley or oats provide and important food source.

Choughs feed in pairs or flocks. A specialist feeder on invertebrates, they will take beetles and their larvae, fly larvae (especially leatherjackets), ants, their grubs and pupae, spiders, sand hoppers, and sometimes earthworms. In the winter, cereal grains may be taken, especially just before birds go to roost.

Chough at Slade Farm, Vale of Glamorgan.