Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax (Linnaeus, 1758) CF CHOUG 15590
Family: Passeriformes > Corvidae

Slimmer and more acrobatic than most of the crow family, Chough can be found in western rocky landscapes, from seacliffs to the mountains of Eryri.

Entirely black plumage in adults and juveniles, with a slim, slightly down-curved bill in bright scarlet, and red legs to match. Seen closely, the iris is also dark red in adults. Adults make a high-pitched 'chee-ow' call similar to that of the Jackdaw but distinctly two-syllabled. Juveniles make a somewhat hoarser 'chuff'.

Breeds in coastal caves above the high-water mark, quarry tunnels and sometimes crevices in abandoned stone constructions. Adults can remain faithfully paired for multiple years. The Chough's breeding range is restricted to the far west of Cornwall, western and northern Wales, the Isle of Man, a small number of western Scottish islands and the southern, western and northern coasts of the island of Ireland.


Chough identification is usually straightforward. The following article may help when identifying Chough.

related video

Identifying Corvids - Crow, Chough, Jackdaw, Rook and Raven

A black crow flies over - but is it a Crow, a Rook or even a Raven? Let this video help you to separate these confusing species, along with their smaller cousins: Jackdaw and Chough.


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Chough, provided by xeno-canto contributors.



Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses

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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



This species is monitored by intermittent single-species surveys which include the Isle of Man as well as the UK. The most recent of these in 2014 recorded a total of 433 breeding pairs, an increase of 34% since 1992. The majority of the population (236 pairs) were in Wales and on the Isle of Man (133 pairs). The population in Wales was stable between 2002 and 2014 but the population in Scotland declined by 25% over that same period. In contrast, numbers almost doubled on the Isle of Man (Hayhow et al. 2018).


Chough distribution in Britain & Ireland is limited to regions with very mild winters, suitable nest cavities and grazed pastures. Birds present in the breeding season in southwest Scotland had disappeared by the closing field seasons of the Atlas and were not recorded in the winter. With their loss, Scottish Choughs are now restricted to Colonsay, Islay and Jura. In Ireland, except where deep bays are flanked by low-lying shores, the range is near continuous from Co. Donegal to Co. Wexford. There is a small outlying population on Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


In winter, losses in range were recorded on the Mull of Kintyre and Gigha in Scotland and nearby in Northern Ireland. These changes may be connected because wintering birds on the Mull of Kintyre may have originated from Northern Ireland.

Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK


Chough is a localised resident and can be recorded throughout the year in suitable habitats.

Weekly occurence of Chough from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Chough ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


Lifecycle and body size information about Chough, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Cathag-dhearg-chasach
Welsh: Brân Goesgoch
Catalan: gralla de bec vermell
Czech: kavce cervenozobé
Danish: Alpekrage
Dutch: Alpenkraai
Estonian: kaljuhakk
Finnish: alppivaris
French: Crave à bec rouge
German: Alpenkrähe
Hungarian: havasi varjú
Icelandic: Bjargkorpungur
Irish: Cág Cosdearg
Italian: Gracchio corallino
Latvian: Alpu varna
Lithuanian: raudonsnape alpine kuosa
Norwegian: Alpekråke
Polish: wronczyk (zwyczajny)
Portuguese: gralha-de-bico-vermelho
Slovak: cavka cervenozobá
Slovenian: planinska vrana
Spanish: Chova piquirroja
Swedish: alpkråka
Folkname: Fire Raven, Red-legged Crow


Interpretation and scientific publications about Chough from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

Agricultural changes such as differing changes to livestock practices could have had both positive and negative effects on local Chough abundance (Johnstone et al. 2007). Fluctuations in Chough numbers in some parts of Wales and on Colonsay (Scotland) have also been attributed to changes in levels of grazing (Hayhow et al. 2018). On the Calf of Man, changes in Chough numbers are correlated with changes in the Sheep and Rabbit population, with both being equally important (McCanch 2000). Analysis of data based on colour-marked individuals from the population on Islay, Scotland found that population changes there were driven primarily by changes in survival of immature birds (and hence recruitment to the breeding population) rather than breeding productivity (Reid et al. 2004).

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