The Scottish population of red-billed chough is critically endangered, with less than 50 pairs remaining on the islands of Islay and Colonsay. The main reasons for their decline are diminishing food supply and disturbance, caused by modern agricultural practices. The chough heavily relies on agricultural and coastal grasslands and suffers from a shortage of nest sites, genetic diversity, and an increase in harmful parasites. Experts predict that the chough population may be lost from Scotland within the next 50 years if urgent action is not taken to protect them.
Efforts to save the Scottish chough population must be intensified, including providing supplementary food at sites and implementing habitat improvements to increase insect populations in the wider countryside. Conservation projects are already in place, and the hope is to develop better measures for the new agriculture support package that is being developed.
The genetic problems faced by the Scottish chough require the release of birds bred from different stock to strengthen their ability to resist parasite infections. Despite the challenges, experts believe that with the right support, Scotland’s chough population can still have a future.
Conservation work for chough populations across Britain and Ireland is currently not strongly coordinated, and there is a need for more consistent reporting and formal studies of the effectiveness of management measures. Overall, it is essential for all interested groups to work together to save Scotland’s chough.