The diet of the Chough  Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocoraxas indicated by analysis of  digested prey remains



The largely invertebrate food of Red-billed Choughs, Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, living on the mariti me cliffs and hinterland ofWest Wales and Cornwall was investigated by analysis ofprey remains in pellet and faecal samples. Undigested material was identified to varying taxonomic levels dependent upon the degree offragmentation and the skeletal units recovered. This was carried out as part ofa study aimed at conserving the species at the southern edge of its British range, and assessing the feasibility of reestablishment in Cornwall. Direct observation showed that, in the breeding season, ants were a major resource, but their absence from faecal samples suggested that they are fed exclusively to nestlings. Otherwise, beetles and dipterous larvae, especially tipulids, were predominant foods. The majority ofthe prey identified in this study are associated with well-grazed rough pasture and maritime cliffs. Dung fauna apparently guarantees a food supply through lean periods. The importance of earthworms is ambiguous: direct observation and faecal evidence suggest it was a regular and important source ofwinter protein, possibly when cerea l grain was unavailable.