We continue our coverage of the real truth about the Corvid 19 with a move to the Eurasian continent.
You’ll be chuffed to know that another iconic corvid is the subject of today’s article, and which one it is, as well as the way of pronunciation, is hinted at in this very sentence.
In English the -ugh- cluster has a large number of pronunciations, from “ug” in the case of the exclamation “Ugh!”, to “af” in the case of “laughter”, “laughing”, or “uf” in “enough”, or “tough” or “of” in “cough”, just “ow” in “bough” or “o” in the topical “furlough” or “dough”, so it is well worth commenting on the actual pronunciation of this Corvid’s name.
Let it be enough to say that chough is spoken as “chuff” and tough on all the other alternatives.
And we are going to look at the more common of the two choughs, rather than the Alpine one, which you are less likely to see in the wild, but more likely to see in an aviary.
Attribution: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Dibyendu_Ash (CC 3.0)
We are presenting the info for each Corvid in a similar tabular form and there will be a publication available at the end of the series where you will be able to get hold of the combined table.
|Other names||Red-billed chough, Cornish chough|
|German||Alpenkraeher (note Alpine chough is “Alpendohle” in German)|
|French||Crave à bec rouge|
|Scientific Name||Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax|
|Number of species in the genus||2|
|Number of subspecies in this species||8|
|Literal meaning of Scientific name||Flame-raven|
|Described by||Linnaeus, 1758|
|First attested in literature||Homer, Arthurian legend, many others|
|Length bill to tail (cm)||40|
|Distribution||Especially cliffs and rocky areas from Ireland to China, absent in much of the range.|
|Remarks||Feeds in flocks on grassland taking invertebrate prey. Therefore a useful bird for agriculture but was often regarded as a nuisance for thieving like magpies and also for setting light to houses (which obviously they could not do, but such was the superstition, not helped by the scientific name). Also not helped by modern farming methods, has become vulnerable in Europe, but gradually returning to South West England. The range of vocalisations is limited.|
|Sexual dimorphism||Male slightly larger|
|Close relatives||Alpine chough, P. graculus, a similar bird with a range restricted to high altitude areas, overlaps with the range of the red-billed chough but is much smaller and in different places without a continued representation. A fossil ancestor P. primigenius has been discovered in France.|
|Not close relatives thought to be close||White winged chough of Australia (not a Corvid but a Corcoracid)|
|Cultural significance||High in Europe and Central Asia since classical times, mentioned in the Odessey as a dweller in Calypso’s island. Also linked to St Thomas a Beckett. Due to the association with King Arthur, whose soul is supposed to have turned into one of them, is a common feature of Cornish folklore and heraldry.|