While its black plumage identifies it as a crow, the chough (pronounced ‘chuff’) has a red bill and red legs unlike any other member of the crow family. Males and females are similar in appearance, but in juveniles the bill is yellow and the plumage and legs are duller in colour than in adults. The Red-billed Chough, a coastal cliff loving bird, is found mostly on the west coast of the United Kingdom. It became extinct in England until a population recolonised the Cornish coastline in the early 1990’s. To date, this is still the only English population.
It is a superb and acrobatic flyer, and can be distinguished when soaring by the “finger feathers” at the wing tips. It is a highly sociable bird in winter, gathering in large flocks. In summer, they build a nest of twigs lined with moss, lichen and sheep’s wool. Courtship often includes “mirrored” flying displays where the male and female will follow each other’s flight patterns. Between 2 to 6 eggs are laid, which hatch after 19 days, and both parents feed the young until they fledge at six weeks. The young birds follow and harass their parents for food, until becoming independent and spreading their territories during the winter months. They breed from 2-3 continuing until almost twenty years old.