Choughs breed in the Channel Islands for first time in a century

Birds On The Edge is delighted to announce the first wild red-billed chough to hatch in the Channels Islands after an absence of 100 years.

The chough, once a common sight in the Channel Islands, became extinct around 100 years ago. Unlikely to reappear naturally, Birds On The Edge began a project to return this highly charismatic and sociable bird, the flagship of Birds On The Edge, to the wild.

In 2010, two breeding pairs were loaned to the project from Paradise Park in Cornwall to start a captive-breeding programme at Durrell, the offspring of which were released into the wild on the Island’s north coast.

In 2013, the first release began with just seven birds. Since then a further 13 birds have joined the wild flock at Sorel.

Amazingly, after only a year in the wild, and in only their first breeding attempt Birds On The Edge are thrilled to now have three nesting pairs. With varying degrees of success, consistent with their young age, one pair has succeeded in raising a fine, healthy chick.

The new chick, christened Dusty by the proud people at Ronez Quarry, where the parents chose to nest, hatched in late May and made its first appearance on the 2nd of July. Liz Corry, Chough re-introduction field manager, of Durrell commented, “It’s not unusual for choughs to nest in quarries or down mineshafts in the wild, but none of us expected them to nest in such an active quarry. Although busy, and noisy, few of the choughs natural predators were likely to worry them in there. We are very grateful to Ronez for helping ensure the birds safety and for their support throughout the project.”

Mike Osborne, managing director of Ronez, said that the whole team were delighted that the first wild chick of the re-introduction project had hatched in the quarry. Mike continued, "Operations Manager Kirsten Du Heaume and her production team have been really engaged with the chough programme over the last two years, keeping an eye out for the welfare of the birds which have become very comfortable in the quarry.

We had built boxes around the site to encourage the birds to nest, so the location that Dusty's parents chose on a steel beam inside our rock crushing house did seem somewhat strange. I suppose this demonstrates the unpredictability of nature.

Ronez will be doing everything we can in the years ahead to support Durrell and the Birds On The Edge programme to encourage more successes like this."

The new young chough marks the first step in the return of a truly wild chough population to the islands. This year’s captive-bred young from Durrell and Paradise Park will be released at Sorel in late-summer to join Dusty and the other wild choughs.

Remarking on the fantastic news, Glyn Young of Durrell said, “It is amazing for birds like these, raised in captivity, to breed in the wild so quickly and this is a positive step for the restoration of Jersey’s coastland birds.”

Dusty flying with parents Blue and Green.