Birds: Chough (Cág cosdearg), Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
A scarce and localised member of the crow family, now more or less confined to our western and southern coasts, the Chough is a species for which Ireland is of particular importance in a European context. The Irish population currently stands at just over 800 breeding pairs, making it one of the most significant in Western Europe.
Marginally larger than the familar Jackdaw, at 40 cm in length, in many respects the Chough looks like a typical all-black crow. At close range, however, its unique long, down-curved red bill and bright red legs make it stand out; the Irish name of this species translates as "red-legged Jackdaw". Choughs also have more prominently "fingered" flight-feathers than our other crows, giving them a distinctive silhouette in the air.
Among our most accomplished aerobatic fliers, Choughs frequently swoop and soar in updrafts around cliffs, seemingly often just for fun. So skilled are these natural stunt pilots that they will sometimes even fly upside down, perform barrel rolls, etc. They feed mostly on insects and their larvae, worms and other subterranean invertebrates, using their curved bills to dig them out of the soil. They will also eat berries, grain, small mammals and birds and, in true crow fashion, pretty much anything else they can find.
The species' English name comes from its highly distinctive nasal "key-aww" call, often the first sign of their presence. Though by no means a common Irish bird, they will be familiar to many due to their conspicuous presence at several well known coastal tourist hotspots, such as the Dingle Peninsula and the Cliffs of Moher.
?More If you would like to learn more about BirdWatch Ireland's efforts to protect our Chough population or would like to join BirdWatch Ireland and support their conservation work, please call 01-2819878, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.birdwatchireland.ie