Cornish Chough was plentiful in Poldark days
The Red-billed Chough is Cornwall’s iconic bird, depicted on the coat of arms and often called the ‘Cornish Chough’. And was said to be plentfiul in Poldark days.
Image: a chough photographed at Botallack. More info on where to see choughs from the RSPB
Today there is a small population of about 10 pairs of these sleek crows living along the coast, but going back to the days of Poldark it was described as ‘plentiful’ and being seen in ‘great flocks’*.
Alison Hales, Director of Paradise Park comments “They live in the same places where evidence of mining is seen, including around the tin mine engine houses which were built on the edge of rocky Atlantic Ocean cliffs. Choughs appear to enjoy the challenge of living in these areas, coping magnificently with the harsh conditions and strong winds. They forage for insects in the cliffscapes and choose deep caves to build their twiggy nests.”
“Tragically, several bad situations collided and in the 1970s the species became extinct in Cornwall after a century of decline. These included shooting, egg-collecting, pesticides and the growth of bracken along the coast. Usually a sedentary species, the return of just a few birds with Irish genes resulted in the new population, so eagle-eyed walkers will often see them now, perhaps alerted by their ‘cheow’ call.”
If you are not walking on the coast paths, then you can see Cornish Choughs at Paradise Park in Hayle. This wildlife sanctuary has a breeding group and its biggest success so far has been to provide birds to re-establish the species on Jersey. Absent from the island for 100 years, the first chick was successfully bred in the wild there in 2015.
Paradise Park is open every day. In the summer season you can see some of the friendliest choughs flying in the afternoon ‘Free Flying Bird Show’, plus during the breeding season you can look into choughs nests via their webcam here (during May and June each year). The choughs in the flying shows have been trained to fly to a Cornish Flag!
The choughs that appear in the show are called Cece and Sienna, and a new chough who is currently in training has been named ‘Melza’, a nod to Ross Poldark’s true love and red-head Demelza!
Paradise Park is home to ‘Operation Chough’ a conservation project established in 1987. Visit www.chough.org
Hear the chough’s call here
You can read about the reintroduction of the chough to Jersey here.
*From Dr Richard Meyer’s thesis
To find out more about Poldark filming locations in Cornwall, go to the Visit Cornwall website here