Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, flock, feeding on beach, Oronsay RSPB reserve

Threats

The chough is afforded the highest degree of legal protection under the Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Threats to chough

Continued loss of low intensity livestock farming through a combination of intensification and abandonment remains a threat to chough populations. A reduction in grazing of coastal slopes has led to feeding areas becoming overgrown and unsuitable, and has removed the food supply associated with animal dung. 

Where populations are small, other factors such as persecution, predation, egg collecting and bad weather can become increasingly important factors threatening their viability.

The chough is included on the Green List of UK birds of conservation concern. The chough is heavily dependent on appropriate land management to provide suitable foraging habitat. 

Conservation organisations including the RSPB, County Wildlife Trusts and National Trust manage tracts of coastal land within and adjacent to the current chough range to benefit choughs. However, site safeguard through legislation is seen to be valuable in securing sites of particular importance. 

Caution should be exercised when treating cattle with anti-parasite drugs in areas used by feeding choughs, as these will prevent invertebrates from colonising dung pats, an important source of food.

Choughs readily use old buildings, quarries and mine shafts as nest sites, and contraction of range may be associated with losses of such nest sites through dereliction or renovation, continued quarrying and dumping of rubbish. 

Artificial nest sites in the Hebrides, Isle of Man and Wales have been readily occupied. The British Mountaineering Council has agreed to a series of climbing restrictions on sensitive sites to reduce disturbance at nest sites.

Although more effective legal protection and a change in the general attitude towards choughs has reduced persecution to a low level, occasional incidents are still reported. Similarly, egg collecting is thought to be much less common than formerly, but still probably takes place every year.

 Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, flock feeding on strandline, Oronsay reserve