Factors affecting the status of the chough in Britain, with observations on its behaviour
This thesis aims to fill gaps unfilled by the recent upsurge in Chough studies. These are: the classification and functional analysis of aspects of their behaviour, examining feeding preferences in relation to land management, finding how literary attitudes towards them developed and obtaining quantitative insights into their past distribution to apply to possible explanations for their status changes. Three pairs near Llangranog, Dyfed were observed and findings were complemented with analysis of RSPB film offcuts. All observed behaviours were defined and classified according to social context and frequency of use. Of 45 behaviours seen, 21 had not previously been recorded. Single-link cluster diagrams were presented to illustrate observed postures and comparable corvid postures. Three aspects of their social behaviour were further examined: Food-begging by juveniles and females was related to time since fledging and copulation date respectively. Begging success depended on technique repertoire, which increased with time; increased foraging group size decreased the individual's vigilance time spent, with an earlier detection of potential tourist disturbance; wing-flicking did not occur with short flights nor after flights due to disturbance. It was frequent after landing while as frequent before take-off as during foraging excepting tourist disturbed flights. Ritualised forms of wing-flicking and bill-wiping formed the basis of Chough communication. Flow diagrams and canal models describing the functional organisation of these behaviours are presented. Choughs feed on short, mainly grass swards maintained by grazing, exposure and occasionally, cutting. When given the Jackdaw's old name, Choughs acquired their thieving reputation and were also regarded as fire-raisers until the 1830's. Distribution and abundance from 1750 to 1982 were estimated at county and national level. Their status was not significantly affected by climate. Grazing artificially boosted their numbers, agricultural changes and persecution from 1750 until 1940 caused their decline.