Chough targeting programme

Chough populations have declined to one pair of chough on Rathlin Island.

Choughs (pyrrhocrax graculus) pair in flight at dusk, South Stack RSPB reserve, Wales


Chough populations have declined to one pair of chough on Rathlin Island. The RSPB identified the need for habitat management advice due to the importance of chough habitat in the area.
The chough breeding on Rathlin do not over-winter on the island. The project also aims to determine where chough go to feed over the winter, and identify why the young are not returning to Rathlin to boost the population.


  • To maintain and increase the N. Ireland chough population
  • Advise, train and encourage farmers regarding sustainable chough habitat management within their DARD Agri-environment scheme
  • Expansion of chough habitat
  • Increase awareness of the importance of chough in the North Antrim area
  • To maintain an accurate chough sightings database

Key Dates

  • Management plans updated for all relevant farms
  • Farmers taken on educational site visit to neighbouring chough stronghold at Malin Head Co. Donegal
  • Coastal tracking volunteer recruited to raise awareness and confirm sightings in the area
  • Habitat management inspected by Department of Agriculture and Rural Development officer
  • Coastal tracking volunteer making chough raising awareness presentations to local schools
  • Awareness raising articles in local newspapers and Birding website blogs
  • More volunteers tasked to sight chough leaving the region in winter


Planned Work

  • Swards grazed according to chough management plans
  • Annual ringing of chough young has been undertaken
  • Department of Agriculture Staff supported with habitat management advice for chough
  • As our chough have changed their nest site, we are currently arranging a ‘nest investigation plan’ with a practise run ahead of nesting 2012


From 2002 to 2004 the chough produced broods on the North Antrim Coast.
Following failed nesting attempts in 2005 and 2006 the birds moved to a new nest site on the South West cliffs of Rathlin Island.
From 2007 to 2009 the chough produced young annually.
During spring 2010 the original male chough died but fortunately a male from the 2009 brood returned to Rathlin and became a companion to the existing female. No young were bred during 2010.
The two birds returned after winter to Rathlin this year however they did not return to the usual nest site on the south west cliffs of Rathlin Isalnd. Instead they moved to a historic nest site on the south cliffs of Rathlin at the RSPB’s Knockan’s Reserve and produced two healthy young this year.


  • Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), Countryside Management Unit (CMU).



Coast on a stormy day

Claire Barnett

Conservation Manager, Conservation Delivery (Acting)

Further reading

Tagged with: Country: Northern Ireland Habitat: Farmland Habitat: Grassland Habitat: Marine and intertidal Species: Chough Project status: Project types: Advocacy