Chough have been breeding at Southerly Point for many years now.
Photo: Ken Billington

Scientific name: Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax

Cornish name: Palora

Other names: Also called Killigrew in Cornwall

Conservation status: IUCN Red List – Least Concern; Schedule 1 species, Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; Annex 1 EC Birds Directive; Appendix II Bern Convention

Chough are members of the crow family (Corvidae), and are found in Europe, Asia and Africa. You can distinguish them from other members of the family by their curved red bills and red legs. They are coastal birds, seldom if ever venturing far inland.

Known as the Cornish Chough because it was so common in the county, it was absent from Cornwall for over 30 years, mainly as a result of habitat loss and persecution. They famously returned in 2001 and have successfully re-established. There are now several pairs breeding in Cornwall, including the original pair who winged their way over here in 2001 and settled on the Lizard.

The best place to see them on The Lizard is along the coastal path, especially in June when the young Choughs have fledged. Watch out for their acrobatic flights, or spot them feeding in fields, searching for insects and larvae. This feeding behaviour is one of the reasons they benefit from land that is grazed at a low intensity by cattle or ponies – it keeps the vegetation short and they are able to search for food more easily.

Did you know…?

…Choughs feature on the coat of arms of Cornwall County Council
…’Chough’ was originally pronounced ‘Chow’, similar to their call

More information and references:

Svensson, L., Mullarney, K., Zetterstrom, D.,1986. Collins Bird Guide, second edition (translated by Christie, D., Svensson, L.). HarperCollins, London.

Published: May 2013
Author: Amanda Scott
Photo: Ken Billington / CC BY-SA