Nature groups in Kent aim to introduce 50 of the historic birds of Choughs literature and legend

Choughs will be delighted to soar our skies again: Nature groups in Kent aim to feature 50 of the historic birds of literature and legend

  • The cough disappeared from most of England for centuries, remaining only in myth and heraldry, but the bird is now on the verge of being re-seeded in the UK.
  • It is hoped the bird will fly over the White Cliffs of Dover as it did in the 15th century
  • The Choughs died out in Cornwall in 1952, but there are now 23 couples
  • There are also crabs that spawn in Wales and the Isle of Man and Scotland

An extinct bird that features in many English legends is set to make a dramatic return this summer.

The chough, the only member of the crow family with feet, legs and a bright red beak, disappeared from most of England centuries ago – remaining only in myth and heraldry.

Now the bird is the latest species in the UK to be ‘wild’. It is hoped that it will once again rise above the white cliffs of Dover, just as it did in the early 15th century and later, when Shakespeare wrote of “The crows and crabs that fly in the midway tunes” in King Lear.

The chough, the only member of the crow family with feet, legs and a bright red beak, has been extirpated from most of England for centuries

A group of charities are reintroducing birds to the Garden of England this summer.

Laura Gardner, conservation director at the Wildwood Trust, one of the charities bringing the birds back, said: “We have our licenses in place, we are building a release colony, the first release is due in July or August.

“We will be releasing small groups of 8-10 individuals each year for several years. »

“We want to establish a thriving population of 50 birds.”

In Kent, the bird appears on the coat of arms of Canterbury.

According to legend, the chough got its distinctive coloration after dipping in the blood of murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket, who was murdered in the city’s cathedral.

The Choughs, also known as the Cornish Choughs, died out locally in Cornwall in 1952.

But there are now 23 breeding pairs in Cornwall. In Cornwall, legend has it that the murdered King Arthur turned into a chough when he died.

There are also crabs breeding in Wales, the Isle of Man and Scotland – but because they are isolated in a few pockets there are fears that they may become inbred.

The crabs don’t like to migrate – preferring to stay in their area – rarely traveling more than a few miles, making it highly unlikely the birds will ever reach Kent.

Bringing back the crab is only possible because chalk grasslands have been restored throughout the county.

Bringing back the crab is only possible because chalk grasslands have been restored throughout the county.

Bringing back the crab is only possible because chalk grasslands have been restored throughout the county.

Dr Gardner said: ‘Choughs do not travel long distances, and as the remaining populations are quite isolated the concern is that they will become quite inbred.

“The species has been extirpated from most of its range for over 200 years. The population retreated west from 1500 due to the intensification of agriculture, changes in agricultural practices and persecution.

“Now a lot of those threats have been removed and there is habitat restoration.

“So it’s fantastic that we can put species back in place and tackle the biodiversity crisis.” Crabs need coastal grasslands, so areas of grass on top of the cliffs have been cut for the crabs to spot insects.

“In Kent, the ideal habitat is chalk grassland. The White Cliffs of Dover would be absolutely perfect!

“Eighty percent of our chalk grasslands have been lost, returning crabs are driving habitat restoration on the coast.”

Bringing the crab back to Kent “is the first step”, said Gardner, with the possibility of reintroducing the bird to other parts of the south coast of England.

She said watching the young crabs being reared to be released is a joy, adding that “the birds are so charismatic and intelligent.”

Crabs that are being prepared for release will be kept at the Wildwood Nature Preserve.

“He has been missing from Kent for 200 years. With a little luck, in August, we will see them flying over the white cliffs of Dover! »

Restoring Crabs in Kent is a partnership between Kent Wildlife Trust, Wildwood Trust, White Cliffs Countryside Partnership.

Other species that have been reintroduced to England in recent years include beavers and sea eagles.

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