The Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), once extinct in Cornwall and still rare throughout the UK, has been seen in recent months for the first time on the Church course. A group of up to eight birds seem to favour the area around the 9th green and 16th tee, so look out for glossy black crows (about the size of Jackdaws) with a bright red, curved bill and red legs. They search for larvae and grubs on the short turf and make a friendly ‘chee-ow’ call.
The Chough features prominently on the Cornish coat of arms and the legendary King Arthur was said to have turned into a Chough when he died, so familiar was the bird in Cornwall in the past. But they stopped breeding here in 1947, the last one being seen in 1973. They re-appeared of their own accord in 2001 and have bred in the far west, on the Lizard, and on the north coast around Newquay since then.
Conservation efforts by sympathetic farmers and local environmental organisations have ensured that the last 22 years have seen a resurgence in their numbers, and in 2023 they had their most successful breeding year yet with 39 pairs raising 112 young. Clearly these new birds have spread along the coast and it is likely some of these are the ones now gracing our fairways. For more information on Choughs see the Cornwall Birds website www.cbwps.org.uk
Simon Marquis (October 2023)