A quartet of red-billed choughs (pronounced “chuffs”) – a species once extinct from Kent – have been driven home for Christmas after a three-month stay in a state-of-the-art aviary overlooking the White Cliffs at Dover Castle.
The iconic birds moved to the aviary on the White Cliffs earlier this year. They are part of a ground-breaking conservation project between Wildwood Trust and Kent Wildlife Trust. The wider aim of this project is to return choughs to the wild in Kent after a 200-year absence.
Re-introducing the Chough
The red-billed chough is a rare member of the crow family with glossy black plumage, red legs and a distinctive bright red beak. The chough was once native to Kent but became extinct in the county more than 200 years ago due to changing farming practices and persecution.
During the course of their three-month stay at Dover, thousands of visitors flocked to the aviary at Dover Castle as part of a joint project between the partners and English Heritage.
Visitors will now be able to get up close to the four young choughs at their Wildwood birthplace, near Herne Bay, where they will be staying until the spring.
Heading home to Herne Bay for Christmas
Laura Gardner is Director of Conservation at Wildwood:
“The choughs received such a warm welcome at Dover Castle and we hope people will continue to take joy in seeing this iconic and emblematic species back at Wildwood.
Dover Castle is open on selected days through the winter so it made perfect sense for the choughs to come back to their birthplace for the winter and continue with their training. This is all part of our wider plan to restore free-living red-billed chough populations across southern England.”
Opportunities to learn about the Chough
The return of the fabulous foursome to Wildwood will allow visitors to learn more about the cultural and ecological significance of these beautiful red-billed birds ahead of the species’ reintroduction to the wild in the local area.
Visitors to Dover Castle will once again be able to see choughs in the aviary from Spring 2022. In the meantime, they’ll continue with their training (see here) at Wildwood.
Kirsty Swinnerton is a Wilding Ecologist from Kent Wildlife Trust:
“The choughs at Dover Castle have been wonderful ambassadors to raise awareness of our plans to reintroduce choughs to the White Cliffs of Dover and to build support among local communities for their eventual return to this coastal region.
Choughs are a charismatic flagship species for the White Cliffs and their rare chalk grasslands. We hope that once choughs are re-established, local residents will cherish and love them and be proud that they are once again part of Kentish heritage.”