Red Billed or Cornish Chough

We feature both species of chough:

Red billed or Cornish Chough

Yellow billed or Alpine Chough

The Chough is the Pyrrhocorax genus of birds being part of the Corvidae family (as well as the chough, the Corvidae family includes the Crow and related birds).  Within the Pyrrhocorax genus there are two species, the first being the Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) which is also known as the Cornish Chough, and the second (featured on the next page) being the Alpine Chough, (Pyrrhocorax graculus) also known as the Yellow-billed Chough.

The Cornish Chough has a completely black or often black-blue steely shining plumage with blue and greenish shades, a long red bill with a curved tip, and red legs. They reach approximately 40 centimeters in length and up to 250 grams in weight. Their wingspan is up to 80 cm.  The young birds possess a shorter and yellowy-orange bill.

The Red Billed Chough is quite common in Europe and Asia. Their habitat covers the rocky cliffs and mountains west of England, including the County of Corwall in the far South West of England, from where the alternative name Cornish Chough comes.  They are also found in Spain, Iceland, France, Portugal, France as well as the mountains of the Urals, Caucasus, Bhutan and the Atlas mountains.  In the Himalayas they can be found at a height of 2000 metres.  In the alps there are only approximately 40 breeding's pairs of Red-billed or Cornish Chough, possible due to competition from the related Alpine Chough.

The long bills of the alpine Cornish Chough are well-suited to picking out worms, insects and their larvae.  From rocky areas they take spiders, other crawling insects, snails and other small animals.  They also enjoy berries and seeds.  They are sociable birds and excellent fliers, sailing the air with ease and skill.

Between April to June approximately 3 to 6 eggs are laid (normally around April in the case of birds inhabiting areas near the sea, and in May in the case of those residing in  mountainous zones).

The nests are almost always built in inaccessible places, for example high cracks in rocky columns or caves and are usually in age-old breeding colonies.  The nests are constructed by both the adults.  Most of the actual structural work is completed by the male, using for such, woods and dry grass.  On the inside the nest is richly quilted by the female.

The incubation is entirely carried out by the female and has a duration of 17-23 days. The male feeds the female in intervals of 20 to 35 minutes during the incubation period . The young birds abandon the nest 37 to 40 days after being born.  The Cornish Chough can live up to the age of 17 years old.

Shakespeare's expression, "russet-pated choughs" in "A Midsummer Night's Dream", act III scene ii, has much exercised his commentators. Some see in it that "pated" meant "patted" or footed (cf. the heraldic croix patee), and that therefore it refers to this bird with its red feet. Others maintain that "russet" did not necessarily mean red, but was frequently used for grey, and accordingly that the Jackdaw with its grey head was intended.

Next...Yellow billed or Alpine Chough


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