Red-billed Chough

What are choughs?

The Cornish chough

The red-billed chough (pronounced 'chuff'), Cornish chough or simply chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), is a member of the crow family, one of only two species in the genus Pyrrhocorax the other being the yellow-billed Alpine chough.

They breed on mountains and coastal cliffs from the western coasts of Ireland and Britain, eastward through southern Europe and North Africa.

These corvids have glossy black plumage, brightly coloured bills, legs and feet. They have long broad wings and are known to perform spectacular tumbling, diving and swooping aerobatics, which makes a truly impressive sight.

They emit an excitable, high-pitched "chi-ow" call from which the bird gets its name.

Cornish chough standing on a rock

Are there any choughs in Lynton & Lynmouth?

Sadly, we have found no record of any recent official chough sightings, however conservation work has continued to increase their numbers around the South West.

Choughs were formerly resident along the North Devon coast with the last documented breeding record at Lynton in 1910[1].

The chough was once widespread around the coasts of Britain, but had declined since the early nineteenth century, with only about 335 breeding pairs[2] left, mainly distributed over Cornwall, Wales, the Isle of Man and western Scotland.

A decline in suitable feeding habitats is thought to be the main reason for the loss of the chough from England, with many of the well-grazed pastures that were once common along the coast, ploughed up for arable crops or overgrown with scrub[3].


[1] RSPB - Nesting opportunities and habitat suitability to support choughs - a report to North Devon Coast AONB (2017) [PDF]

[2] British Trust for Ornithology - Bird Facts - Chough

[3] The National Trust - Our work to care for choughs