Red-billed chough

The red-billed chough, Cornish chough or simply chough is a bird in the crow family. It is one of only two species in the genus Pyrrhocorax. Its eight subspecies breed on mountains and coastal cliffs from the western coasts of Ireland and Britain east through southern Europe and North Africa.

About Red-billed chough in brief

Summary Red-billed choughThe red-billed chough, Cornish chough or simply chough, is a bird in the crow family. It is one of only two species in the genus Pyrrhocorax. Its eight subspecies breed on mountains and coastal cliffs from the western coasts of Ireland and Britain east through southern Europe and North Africa to Central Asia, India and China. This bird has glossy black plumage, a long curved red bill, red legs, and a loud, ringing call. It has a buoyant acrobatic flight with widely spread primaries. The main threat to this species is changes in agricultural practices, which have led to population decline, some local extirpation, and range fragmentation in Europe; however, it is not threatened globally. It feeds, often in flocks, on short grazed grassland, taking mainly invertebrate prey. There are eight extant subspecies, although differences between them are slight. The sexes are similar, but the juvenile has an orange bill and pink legs until its first autumn, and less glossy plumage. Although it is unlikely to be confused with any other species of bird, the jackdossed chough is smaller and has unglossed grey plumage and the Alpine chough has a short yellow bill in flight, and the two choughs can be distinguished by their less rectangular wings, longer, less square-ended tail and whistled rippling calls.

Smaller subspecies of the red chough have larger, sweeeeeeee, calls, which always have higher frequency than that of the yellow-bills, and always have a louder chee-e-owe call. There is one known prehistoric form, P. primigenius, a subspecies that lived in Europe during the last ice age, which was described in 1875 by Alphonse Milne-Edwards from finds in southwest France. It was formerly associated with fire-raising, and has links with Saint Thomas Becket and Cornwall. The bird has been depicted on postage stamps of a few countries, including the Isle of Man, with four different stamps, and The Gambia, where the bird does not occur. The adult is 39–40 centimetres in length, has a 73–90 centimetre wingspan, and weighs an average 310 grammes. Its plumage is velvet-black, green-glossing on the body, and it has a long curve red bill and red legs. It pairs for life and displays fidelity to its breeding site, which is usually a cave or crevice in a cliff face. It builds a wool-lined stick nest and lays three eggs. The Australian white-winged Chough, Corcorax melanorhamphos, is only distantly related to the true Choughs, and is an example of convergent evolution. The closest relatives are the typical crows, Corvus, especially jackdaws in the subgenus Coloeus.