Cornwall chough project

The natural return of wild choughs to Cornwall in 2001 was of great significance for Cornwall and its people.

 Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, flock feeding on strandline, Oronsay reserve


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, closely monitoring 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 long before they breed outside Cornwall.


  • 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

  • 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


Planned Work

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. 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 secure the future for these iconic red-billed crows.


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.


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.


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


PDF, 582Kb - The first edition of 'Paloresow Kernewek' (Cornish Choughs), a newsletter about Cornwall's special bird.

Paloresow Kernewek: Issue 1 - August 2011


Coast on a stormy day

Paul St Pierre

Conservation Officer, RSPB
01736 362979

Further reading

Tagged with: Country: England Habitat: Farmland Habitat: Grassland Habitat: Heathland Species: Chough Project status: Project types: Advocacy Project types: Education