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The Chough

ChoughOne such place thriving with Coastal life, is the famous Cliffs of Moher. This area is one of the best in Ireland to see a very special type of seabird: The "Chough" or Sea Crow. Its quite likely that you will hear a Chough before you see one, but once you do lock eyes on them, they are unmistakable. Roughly the size of a Jackdaw, they have bright red legs and a similar colored curved beak. Their feathers however are a traditional glossy black, like their cousin, the Crow. Choughs tend to mate in pairs for extended periods and when leaving the flock, do so together. Tending to nest in preferably dark and cool places, the female lays around 3-5 eggs and after 21 days of incubation, the eggs hatches with constant brooding for another two weeks. The male meanwhile provides all the food. Sometimes a third chough is even 'employed' as a helper for the nest.

Like in any other similar situation, unattended chicks are at risk from nest site predators such as Ravens, and parents have to constantly remain on guard. It has been noted that the smaller Chough has often been seen fending off larger predators thanks to some spectacular aerial moves accompanied by their shrieking call. Eventually at an age of 7 weeks, the young begin to fly and after several weeks are able to fend for themselves.

The first few weeks after fledging are dangerous for a bird, and the Chough is no exception to this. If they do however manage to successfully fully mature, they usually have a lifespan of around 10 years. Ironically because of a reduction in grazing of farm animals in coastal areas, the growth associated with their dung has declined, along with certain areas becoming overcome by unsuitable growth. It's all bad news for the Chough as they rely on managed land for food supplies. As well as pasture, the Chough can feed on small insects and has also began to show some family trends by going after leftovers left from passersby.

For more info:
www.birdwatchireland.ie/Default.aspx?tabid=122
www.birdwatchireland.ie/?tabid=205

Take Action
If you see a Chough in your area, Birdwatch Ireland would love to here about it. Please contact 353 (0)1 2819878 or send an email to info@birdwatchireland.ie to report your sighting.