The Chough is a member of the crow family, about the size of a Jackdaw. They have an iridescent black plumage and striking red beak and legs. The Irish Chough population makes up about 60% of a geographically distinct and isolated NW European population of approximately 1500 pairs. In the EU, Choughs are a Birds Directive Annex 1 species, requiring areas to be designated for their conservation. Our Agri-environment plans on these farms manage grazing to maintain a short sward that allows Chough to access their invertebrate prey. A sward height of 2-3cm is required.
Choughs forage over a broad range of habitats including unimproved dry grasslands right the way through to improved grasslands. Maritime and coastal heath habitats occur in headlands along the coast and are favoured by the foraging Chough. Choughs feed almost exclusively on invertebrates. A favourite food of theirs which is also a serious pest of cereal and tillage crops – the larvae of the Crane Fly or ‘daddy-long legs’ probably best known to farmers as ‘leather jackets’.
Chough habitats occur on areas grazed by sheep and cattle and with a mix of arable crops and grass silage. Earth and stone banks occurring on these sites must be preserved as they are a rich source of invertebrate food for the Chough. They inhabit wind swept coastal regions along the western seaboard of Ireland. These areas are designated SPAs.