Pyrrhocorax – Choughes

Chough's looks make it apparent that they are relatives of crows, but red legs and red/yellow bills give them a unique identity

Best known for its striking corvid members, which are often recognized by their glossy black plumage and distinctive red or yellow bills. These birds exhibit a strong affinity for rugged landscapes, such as islands, grasslands, cliffs, and high mountain regions, where their acrobatic flight skills are put on full display.

The plumage of these birds is not just for show; the glossy sheen of their feathers plays a role in their social signaling and may help with thermoregulation. The coloration also provides a stark contrast to their often barren habitats, making them quite noticeable when they gather in their sociable flocks.

Pyrrhocorax species are known for their social nature, often seen in groups that can range from small family units to larger flocks. These gatherings are typically peaceful among their own kind, but they can be territorial and may exhibit aggressive behavior towards other species, especially during the breeding season.

Their strong wings and the mountainous terrains they inhabit allow for dynamic flight maneuvers, utilizing updraughts to soar and glide with minimal effort. These birds are also known for their aerial displays, which include diving, rolling, and chasing, often part of courtship or territorial displays.

The intelligence of Pyrrhocorax species is notable, especially in their feeding strategies. Alpine Choughs, for instance, have been observed using tools to access food and hiding surplus food in crevices or under small stones for later consumption. This caching behavior indicates a level of foresight and memory that is quite sophisticated.

The chough has cultural significance as well, particularly in Cornwall, where it is a symbol of the region. It features on the Cornish Coat of Arms and is intertwined with local folklore, including the legend that King Arthur was transformed into a chough upon his death, with the red feet and bill signifying his violent end.