Using ecological research to conserve a rare species of bird

red-billed chough

With only two populations of red-billed choughs left in Scotland, researchers at the University have studied the rare birds to try and implement strategies to reverse declining numbers.

Professor Jane Reid has studied Scotland’s red-billed chough population on Islay for several years to understand which areas on the island are key to population growth. Working closely with conservation agencies, policy makers, academics, local enthusiasts and farmers, Professor Reid’s data collection helped to understand the causes of population decline to ensure conservation efforts could be focused on the most effective areas.

In collaboration with the Scottish Chough Study Group, Professor Reid’s research led to a major Special Protection area on Islay for the species and prompted Scottish Natural Heritage to fund an emergency conservation programme of supplementary feeding.

As a result, farmers in certain areas of Islay could apply for agri-environmental funding to undertake land management activities that benefited choughs, which fundamentally changed agricultural practices on the island. Results of the research became Scottish government conservation policy which ultimately helped to secure the survival of the red-billed chough.

red-billed choughs

Find out more about Professor Reid's research.