Page last updated at 06:58 GMT, Thursday, 25 June 2009 07:58 UK

Chuffed over choughs' egg success

Chough
The chough features on the Cornish coat of arms

Bird enthusiasts are celebrating in Cornwall after two pairs of choughs successfully raised eight fledglings.

The birds, which have black plumage, red legs and a curving red beak, feature on the Cornish coat of arms alongside the miner and the fisherman.

They returned to the county in 2001 after a 50-year absence.

The re-colonisation success is down to more than 100 volunteers in Cornwall who helped protect the nests from egg collectors and other disturbances.

The chicks, which have already flown the nest at Penwith, are expected to help boost the population next year through breeding.

Pesticide impact

The species is often mentioned in Cornish legend and it is said that King Arthur was transformed into a chough when he died - with the red feet and beak representing his violent, bloody end.

In the 19th Century there were more than 100 pairs in the county, but the chough vanished after its food source dried up because of a decline in cliff top grazing and the use of pesticides.

The birds feed mainly on soil-living insects and prefer short turf with a plentiful supply of dung.

The chicks, five males and three females, hatched last month - a third pair failed to breed because the female was too immature.

The only other known breeding pair in England are on the Lizard peninsula.

A programme to protect the wild population and promote chough-friendly farming of the county's cliffs, known as the Cornish Chough Project, has been set up by the RSPB, Natural England, the National Trust and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.



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SEE ALSO
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