Chough – Tim Melling

Tim writes: in Britain, Choughs are rather rare, and have likely always been so as there are few English folk names for them. There are many ancient references to Chough but that is because this was the name originally applied to the Jackdaw.  Shakespeare refers to Choughs in seven of his plays but at this date  (c1600) he can have only meant Jackdaws.  The name Cornish Chough was the real Chough’s earliest name (Turner 1544) as it was literally the Cornish Jackdaw (also called Cornyssh daw in 1575). Thomas Bewick (1804) was the first to drop the epithet “Cornish” and just called it Chough as by this date the name was no longer used for Jackdaw.   As Chough is a defunct onomatopoeic name for Jackdaw it is certain that it was originally pronounced “Chow” (similar to Bough being pronounced bow).  But everyone now pronounces it “Chuff”.

In Wales, where the Chough is commoner and more widespread it has at least two names; Brân big-goch (red-billed crow) and Brân goesgoch (red-legged crow).  Its scientific name Pyrrhocorax translates as flame raven.

I photographed this bird in the Peak District, where it spent a few weeks from late July, a long way from its usual breeding range.

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