Record-breaking year for Cornish Choughs

Alongside many partners, we are thrilled to announce that Cornwall’s Chough population has had a record-breaking year, with 39 breeding pairs fledging over 100 young. This is a 60% increase in the number of fledged chicks compared to last year and a real milestone for a bird that was once extinct in Cornwall, but even greater against a backdrop of decreasing Chough populations elsewhere in the UK.

Cornish Chough Breeding figures 2021-23:

  • 2021 – 23 successful pairs fledged 66 young
  • 2022 – 25 successful pairs fledged 71 young
  • 2023 – 39 successful pairs fledged 112 young

Choughs, Peter Crumpler

After more than 20 years of conservation efforts to bring them back to their Cornish home, Cornwall’s Choughs are now well on their way to becoming a healthy and resilient population. Choughs are spreading around the Cornish coast with a pair breeding on the Roseland again this year, which is the first time since 2016 (which was the first time in almost 200 years), and they are continuing to spread north of the Camel Estuary.

Paul St Pierre, RSPB Conservation Officer, commented: “We want to thank everyone involved in surveying and providing the conditions for Choughs to flourish. It has taken a while, but finally the tide has turned for Choughs in Cornwall. One of the primary goals has been to re-establish a link between the Chough population in Wales and Britany, and this year brings us closer than ever to achieving that objective. By continuing to implement effective land management practices and safeguarding suitable nesting and roosting areas, we can ensure a bright future for Choughs in this region, while also witnessing their expansion along the coast into Devon and other areas beyond.”
Not all of this year’s young will survive to adulthood and raise families of their own, but the higher the number of fledglings that survive each year, the more robust the birds become against extinction in the future. Cornwall’s oldest Choughs continue to show the youngsters the way to do it, with the oldest, a male who is 18 years old, fledging five chicks with his mate for the third time in four years. And a pair breeding since 2011, which includes one of the oldest breeding females at 14 years old, doubled their fledglings this year with four chicks.

It has taken decades of close partnership work to get Cornwall’s Choughs back to this positive result. From the conservation expertise of the RSPB, to the passion of Cornish nature-friendly farmers and land managers who have brought back grazing to the cliffs, the vital funding for this land management from Natural England, the coordination and cooperation of conservation organisations like National Trust, and the dedication of volunteers who monitor the birds, plus those that report the valuable sightings to Cornwall Birds (CWBPS), to make this a conservation success story.Kate Evans, National Trust Senior Visitor Experience Officer for West Cornwall, added: “’We are thrilled to be celebrating a nature conservation success in Cornwall, as numbers of Choughs go from strength to strength each year! It’s with great thanks to the dedicated volunteers who give their time to monitoring Choughs, helping us to build a picture as the population grows in number and range.”

Hilary Mitchell from Cornwall Birds (CBWPS) said: “We would like to thank everyone who has sent us their Chough sightings this year. It’s been an unbelievably successful breeding season. All the records we received by email and to our bird news website meant we could identify new nests for volunteers to monitor. It also made a big difference when chicks started to fledge with lots of reports of Chough families coming in. Keeping track of our Kernow Chough population has been a real challenge this year, but it’s a nice problem to have! To put it into context, in 2013 we only had five successful breeding pairs (fledging 14 chicks), compared to 2023 with 39 successful pairs and 112 chicks, numbers well beyond our wildest expectations.”

The next chapter of the Cornish Chough story is in everyone’s hands – if you see Choughs in Cornwall please email your sightings to [email protected]

Cornwall Birds (CBWPS) are keen to receive all records; some people have been lucky enough to see Choughs in their gardens so please let us know if you see this happening and what they are eating, so the team can find out how common this behaviour is.