Alpine Chough

Alpine Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus occurs in high country from northwest Africa and Spain to China, where forsythi is resident in mountains of Xinjiang, on the Tibetan Plateau, and in the Min Mountains in Gansu. Prefers higher altitudes than red-billed chough, though the ranges of the two species often overlap. Regularly nests as high as 5000 m; descends in winter. Diet mainly insects in spring and summer, seeds and berries in autumn and winter. Acrobatic in air, soaring, diving, and swooping around cliffs on prominently “fingered” wings; but often forages on ground in large flocks. Distinctive; unlikely to be confused with any other bird. Red-billed chough has longer, red bill, more prominent fingers on outstretched wings, and a shorter tail. Plumage from head to tail black, with bluish-green gloss. Juvenile duller. Bill yellow (duller in juvenile), shorter and straighter than bill of red-billed chough; legs short, brown in juvenile, red in adult. Call sweeter and more rippling than call of red-billed chough. Song a series of squeaks and warbles, less piercing than call. — Craig Brelsford


Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for Craig Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which this species description is drawn.

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