A rare bird has returned to the White Cliffs of Dover for the first time in centuries thanks to a groundbreaking conservation project.
Four young red-billed choughs now live in a specially constructed aviary which was unveiled at Dover Castle on Friday.
The launch is part of a larger plan by Wildwood Trust and Kent Wildlife Trust to reintroduce this beautiful endangered species to the wild in Kent next year.
Meanwhile, visitors to the English heritageThe managed castle can get up close to the birds and learn about their cultural and ecological significance.
Dover Castle provides a unique natural and historical setting to inspire people about the project.
Senior Curator of English Heritage Properties Roy Porter said: “Many think of the ‘blue birds above the White Cliffs of Dover’, but choughs were common here in Kent when the tusks of Dover were cut. built for the first time.
“With hundreds of thousands of visitors to Dover Castle each year, the Crave Aviary will introduce our visitors to a unique bird with historical ties to Kent and celebrate the return of the crave to the region.”
The red-billed chough is a rare member of the crows family.
It is identified by its glossy black plumage, red legs, and distinctive bright red bill.
According to the British Trust for Ornithology, there are 330 breeding pairs in the UK. Its length is 40cm, its wingspan is 82cm and each bird weighs about 310g.
Craves disappeared from Kent over 200 years ago due to changing farming practices and persecution.
The chubs living in the aviary hatched earlier this year at the UK wildlife conservation charity Wildwood Trust in nearby Herne Bay as part of a breeding program to reverse the population decline in UK.
A dedicated team of Wildwood caretakers have spent the past three months raising and training the birds for their move to the clifftop castle.
This included an enrichment to accustom the birds to their new surroundings, including new sights and sounds.
Wildwood Trust Director of Conservation Laura Gardner said: “We are delighted to see the chicks grow up to be incredible ambassadors for their species – and for the longer term reintroduction.
“The crave is a charismatic and intelligent bird and everyone will fall in love with these characters – they all have such different personalities.
“We hope that the birds of Dover Castle will allow the people of Kent to reconnect with this iconic and iconic species and bring us one step closer to restoring populations of Red-billed Chough in southern England.”
Although it has been extinct in the county for two centuries, the crave is steeped in Kent history. It is often found on pub signs and coats of arms.
Legend has it that the chough even had its red beak and beak following the murder of Thomas Becket when a crow fell and walked in its blood, making its beak and legs red and turning into a chough.
Kent Wildlife Trust Wild conservationist Kirsty Swinnerton said: “A chance to see the Red-billed Chough in Kent after more than 200 years is the perfect example of the story coming to life as well as showcasing an enigmatic species that can give people the opportunity to connect with the past and be part of a bright future for this species.
“This is reflected in the partnership, which brings vital skills and unique perspectives to this project.
“It’s a wonderful crossroads of history and wildlife just outside Dover.
“We couldn’t be more excited to see this happen, and we hope this is just a stepping stone towards the widespread recovery of the Red-billed Chough in England.”
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