NCI watchkeepers occasionally observe the presence of Choughs flying or feeding near to the lookout at Worms Head. This is not surprising as they have nested nearby for the last three years and in general are increasing on Gower. They are black crow- like birds with a thin decurved red bill and red legs.

Red-billed Chough Rhossili GowerThe famous naturalist Gilbert White in his book The Natural History of Selbourne written in 1788 referred to “Cornish Choughs” breeding on Beachy Head and on all the cliffs of the Sussex coast. Their wide presense in Cornwall is self-evident from this description and in fact they are on the coat of arms of the County of Cornwall. They reappeared in Cornwall in 2001 for the first time in about 50 years and have successfully bred a number of times since.

The Chough is a fairly common bird in Heraldry and since 1380 has also been on the coat of arms of the City of Canterbury. This is no doubt linked to the Choughs presence originally on the arms of Thomas Becket (Archbishop of some fame).

So Choughs were fairly common in Britain prior to the 18th century but since that time steadily declined. As they like to feed on insects and worms in the short grass of coastal cliffs this decline can be linked to the reduction of grazed grassland in this terrain.

Red-billed Chough Rhossili GowerDuring the 20th century they were therefore only occasionally seen on Gower until the 1990’s when breeding pairs were observed. Their nest sites are usually on cliff ledges or in crevices or small caves. Numbers have gradually increased and in 2006 sixteen birds roosted under cliffs above Mewslade beach. In 2007 there were 2 nest sites between Mewslade and Lewes Castle and 5 birds fledged. The latter juveniles do not have rings but of the adult birds 3 are ringed. Each ringed bird has three coloured rings and one metal BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) ring.

In total on Gower there are thought to be more than 7/8 nest sites and up to 30 Choughs. They are fairly gregarious and groups are frequently seen in acrobatic flight or feeding together on the ground. The photographs show the adult pair that produced 4 juveniles in 2007 and were taken from the lookout by Frank Rott.