Chuff-ed to be Home for Christmas

Iconic birds bid adieu to the White Cliffs as they return to Wildwood Kent for an extended festive break

A quartet of red-billed choughs (pron: chuffs) – a species once extinct from Kent – have been driven home for Christmas after a three-month stay in a state-of-the-art aviary overlooking the White Cliffs at Dover Castle.

The iconic birds moved to the aviary on the White Cliffs earlier this year as part of a ground-breaking conservation project between Wildwood Trust and Kent Wildlife Trust. The wider aim of this project is to return choughs to the wild in Kent after a 200-year absence.

During the course of their three-month stay, thousands of visitors flocked to the aviary at Dover Castle as part of a joint project between the partners and English Heritage.

Visitors will now be able to get up close to the four young choughs at their Wildwood birthplace, near Herne Bay, where they will be staying until the spring.

Laura Gardner is Director of Conservation at Wildwood:

“The choughs received such a warm welcome at Dover Castle and we hope people will continue to take joy in seeing this iconic and emblematic species back at Wildwood.

“Dover Castle is open on selected days through the Winter so it made perfect sense for the choughs to come back to their birthplace for the winter and continue with their training. This is all part of our wider plan to restore free-living red-billed chough populations across southern England.”

The return of the fabulous foursome to Wildwood will allow visitors to learn more about the cultural and ecological significance of these beautiful red-billed birds ahead of the species reintroduction to the wild in the local area. Visitors to Dover Castle will once again be able to see choughs in the aviary from Spring 2022. In the meantime, they’ll continue with their training (see here) at Wildwood.

The move comes just weeks after a major appeal was launched by Kent Wildlife Trust and Wildwood Trust to help raise vital funds to ensure the future of the innovative project.

Kirsty Swinnerton is a Wilding Ecologist from Kent Wildlife Trust:

“The choughs at Dover Castle have been wonderful ambassadors to raise awareness of our plans to reintroduce choughs to the White Cliffs of Dover and to build support among local communities for their eventual return to this coastal region.

Chough are a charismatic flagship species for the White Cliffs and their rare chalk grasslands. We hope that once choughs are re-established, local residents will cherish and love them and be proud that they are once again part of Kentish heritage.”

If you would like to support the chough appeal, or would like more information, you can go to Wildwood or Kent Wildlife Trust appeal pages.