With its stunt-flying agility, red beak and legs and ringing calls, the chough is a gem of some clifftop grasslands and coastal farms. Go west to Islay for the best chance of seeing this rarest member of the crow family in Scotland.
What to look for
Listen for a ringing call - slightly like a jackdaw, but with an electric twang to the ‘kee-ah’ phrases. Choughs are agile in flight, tumbling a lot and using wings that look broad and rounded. Closer to, the carmine red of the curved bill and legs is a giveaway.
Choughs do best on coastal grassland grazed by cattle (they go a bundle on dung flies). As cattle numbers have slumped, so have choughs. Even where cattle remain, use of powerful wormers can make cowpats useless for dung flies - and hence choughs.
When and where to see
This is now a very scarce bird. The main place where you could have a fair chance of seeing some, year-round, is on Islay (especially the west) and its nearby islands.
For more information see the RSPB's chough page.