The story of The Lizard’s Choughs

Choughs are among the most iconic birds of The Lizard. Locals and visitors alike love to see them, feeding in the short turf of the coast or soaring in the air on outstretched wings, red legs and red bills bright against their black feathers.

It’s hard to believe that they were absent from The Lizard’s shores for a long time, becoming locally extinct from the early 1970s, due mainly to changes in farming practice leading to loss of habitat. The only place to see them here was on Cornwall’s coat of arms. Then, in 2001, three pioneering Choughs arrived back on The Lizard (DNA testing has shown they migrated from Ireland). In 2002, they bred and raised a family, and the return of the Choughs began in earnest.

Chough pair (image copyright, National Trust)

The year 2022 was a time of celebration – twenty years of Choughs breeding on The Lizard cliffs. From that first pair to 25 pairs breeding in 2022 and raising 70 young, the current population is now some 200 birds. It’s been a success story, thanks to the support of conservation partners, including nature organisations, local farmers and landowners, and a team of amazing volunteers to be proud of. In the first years of the Choughs’ return, when their future was not certain, volunteers monitored and protected the birds from disturbance during the breeding season. Local farmers were also instrumental in supporting the Choughs, through grazing regimes that maintained the short turf on the coast that the birds need for foraging.

Find out more by watching this 2022 celebratory video about the Choughs.