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Friday, 9 June, 2000, 06:33 GMT 07:33 UK
Cornwall sees return of 'symbolic' bird

Scientists have observed the chough in captivity
One of Cornwall's enduring symbols, a bird which has been absent from the landscape for 30 years, is to be reintroduced into the wild.

The chough has been bred in captivity for more than two decades, after its natural habitat was gradually eroded.

Ornithologists could soon see the species returned to its former home, where it has not been spotted for many years.

There are plans to move large scale aviaries onto the Cornish clifftops, creating a safe haven for the birds while they learn to fend for themselves.

After observing them in captivity, scientists feel they know enough about what the birds need to survive in the wild.

The demise of the tin mining industry was largely blamed for the death of the chough in Cornwall.

Strong identity

The birds' ideal cliff top habitat of closely cropped grass was created by grazing pit ponies.

But the ponies went when the mines were shut, the grass grew and subsequent harsh winters finally finished off the chough.

The chough has long been synonymous with Cornwall, even appearing on the county coat of arms.

More than just a wildlife project, it is hoped the initiative will re-establish the bird as a strong symbol of the region's identity.

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