Red-billed Chough

Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax occurs Ireland and northwest Africa to China, where centralis is in southwest Tibet, himalayanus central Gansu to western Sichuan and Yunnan, and brachypus Inner Mongolia and western Heilongjiang to Ningxia, Shaanxi, and Shandong. HABITAT & BEHAVIOR Commonly associated with mountains, but most basic requirement is not high altitudes but steep precipices and ravines such as those found in mountains. In summer in western China regularly ranges as high as 6000 m (19,690 ft.), but in east found nearly to sea level. Sometimes nests around farms and towns; shadows grazing livestock. Acrobatic flier, soaring, diving, tumbling, and swooping around cliffs on prominently “fingered” wings. Also often on ground, digging for insects. ID & COMPARISON Distinctive; unlikely to be confused with any other bird. Glossy blue-black from head to short, broad tail. Juvenile less glossy. Ssp. himalayanus is largest race; brachypus has shortest bill. Alpine Chough P. graculus lacks red bill, has less prominent fingers, and has a longer tail. BARE PARTS Bill long, slim, slightly decurved, red (orange in juvenile); legs long, red. VOICE Very vocal. Call a clear, high-pitched karr, like barking of small dog. Also soft warbles and chitters. — 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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