Historically, the southwest of the UK, especially Cornwall, was a stronghold for choughs. Their return and success is a milestone in terms of UK range recovery for this species.
With new non-Cornish born choughs turning up and entering the breeding population, other birds from the Gower being seen in north Devon and Somerset, and even a Breton bird visiting Cornwall, the Scillies and north Devon their range recovery in the south west is encouraging. Elsewhere other choughs have been visiting Cumbria and Lancashire (where they once bred). In Scotland the population on Islay/Colonsay is not as secure with a worrying downward trend, but in Wales numbers are stable overall although there have been localised declines. The chough’s future in the UK is looking ok but we mustn’t be complacent.
Habitat restoration and maintenance to provide suitable foraging areas in the right places is a priority in terms of chough conservation. This is where the RSPB focuses its effort, working with Natural England to target suitable areas for chough management and providing advice and support to farmers and landowners to encourage grazing regimes to help choughs and other wildlife. Grazing by suitable stock (usually the native breeds of cattle) provides a chough-friendly mosaic of open, short grasslands where they can forage for invertebrates.
Choughs can be vulnerable to disturbance and egg collectors so RSPB staff and volunteers monitor the choughs and provide protection for nests against accidental disturbance and persecution as well as year round monitoring of the expanding population.
At Southerly Point, Lizard, a Wildlife Watchpoint is run by the National Trust, helping visitors get good views of the choughs during the breeding season. A Trust team of volunteers also protects their nearby nest.
Where we can and have the resources, we work with local communities to gain support for chough conservation and to secure their future.