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Order Song birds/Passeriformes, Family Crows/Corvidae

Red-billed Chough/Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax - Adult

L 37-41 cm, WS 68-80 cm. Breeds in mountains (at 1200-3000 m, locally even higher) with steep precipices and ravines, as well as along steep rocky coasts (thus around sea-level) with caves and deep clefts. Resident. Often fearless and approachable. Social in habits except when breeding, but colonies may occur, sometimes mixed with Alpine Choughs, when suitable nest sites are few. Forages on ground, for insects and other small invertebrates and berries. Nests on cliff-ledge on precipice or in cave, in crevice, at times also on or in cavity in building.
IDENTIFICATION: A glossy metallic black, fully Jackdaw-sized bird with distinctive proportions: wings are rather long and uniformly broad right up to body, has blunt wing-tips which are deeply ‘fingered’, has rather short tail (equals wing width) which is straight-ended, and the red bill is long, pointed and decurved. The red legs are rather long. On perched bird, wing-tips reach tail-tip (tail protrudes clearly beyond wing-tips on Alpine Chough). Acrobatic flyer - the Chough may be likened to an air-show pilot in an old biplane: despite the broad and ‘frayed’ wings, the bird rolls and turns over with the greatest of ease, and it plunges in tail-chases on folded wings (only carpals stick out) with a whizzing sound, only immediately to shoot skywards again. Sexes alike. - Juvenile: Bill is dull orange-yellow and shorter than adult’s, plumage duller sooty-black. Legs are often duller red.
VOICE: The most typical call, often uttered as advertising-call in flight, is a cutting, almost whizzing, slightly descending ‘chiach’, akin to some calls of Jackdaw but more piercing, higher-pitched and with thicker-voiced ending. The call varies in details, so that a whole spectrum of related calls occurs, ‘chiaa’, ‘chrai’, ‘chi-ah’, ‘tschraah’ etc.

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