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Chough conservation effective but more action needed - NatureScot

Conservation measures to help save the threatened red-billed chough have been effective in preventing further large population declines.

A new report published by NatureScot found that supplementary feeding and parasite treatment aimed at preventing chough extinction in Scotland have been successful.

NatureScot has now committed to funding the measures for a further two years to support the population, while exploring longer-term recovery options.

Red-billed chough David Whitaker
Red-billed chough David Whitaker

Red-billed chough in Scotland have declined and are currently restricted to the islands of Islay and Colonsay, where there were fewer than 50 pairs in 2018.

The birds are threatened simultaneously by lack of food (affecting first year survival), parasites and low genetic diversity.

NatureScot funded an emergency supplementary feeding programme that began in 2010 at multiple sites on Islay with treatment of parasites from 2014, alongside monitoring of the population.

The report found that supplementary feeding has successfully increased key demographic rates, including first year survival, and birds treated for parasites recovered after 2-3 days, concluding that the programme was an effective short-term conservation action.

However, it adds that in the longer-term, further measures will be needed to stabilise the species, including habitat improvements and reinforcing the population with birds from other UK populations to reduce inbreeding.

The full report is available here.

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