7 April 2001


The Lizard Peninsula

Known for

The chough is a black bird with red legs and beak. It is an important symbol of Cornwall. Choughs disappeared from Cornwall for many years, but returned in 2001. People thought that the return of the chough was a good sign for Cornwall and Cornish people.

Edhen dhu ha dhedhi diwar ha gelvin rudh yw an balores. Arwodh a vri yw rag Kernow. Paloresow eth dhe-ves dhyworth Kernow dres lies bledhen, mes i a dhehwelis yn 2001. Tus a grysi bos dehwelyans an balores arwodh dha rag Kernow ha’n Gernowyon.

Illustration of the chough returning to Cornwall
Choughs disappeared from Cornwall for many years, but returned in 2001 Illustration by Kira Gardner
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Cornish chough

The chough is a member of the crow family. It was once so common in Cornwall that it was given the name ‘the Cornish chough’. Choughs lived on cliff-tops, where grass was kept short by the ponies that worked at tin and copper mines.


The chough became an important symbol of Cornwall. It appeared in the heraldic arms of several Cornish families including the Rashleighs, Trewinnards and Trebarthas. It also features on the arms of the Duchy of Cornwall, and on those of Cornwall Council, where it is seen holding the Duke of Cornwall’s coronet with one foot.

Photograph of the Rashleigh Arms Sign
The Rashleigh Arms

The once and future king

Choughs are also the subject of various legends. It is said that after his death, the spirit of King Arthur entered into the body of a chough. The bird’s red legs and beak are supposed the represent the blood shed by Arthur in his last battle. The return of the chough could be seen as the return of Arthur – “the once and future King” – who has come to lead the Cornish people again.

The chough returns

The decline of mining, changes in habitat and shooting all reduced the number of choughs in Cornwall. The last pair to nest in Cornwall died in the 1970s. However, in April 2001, after nearly thirty years, a pair of choughs was once again seen on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall. This pair nested and had chicks in 2002. These choughs and their descendents have remained in Cornwall ever since.

Did you know?

The choughs found in Cornwall in 2001 are believed to have come from Ireland – a fellow Celtic nation. In 2016, there were approximately 34 individual choughs resident in Cornwall, with around seven breeding pairs.

Was the return of the chough in 2001 really a good sign for Cornwall and Cornish people?


Choughs return to Cornwall (7th April 2001).

The UK government records people describing themselves as Cornish in the UK census for the first time.

50,000 people sign a petition calling for a Cornish Assembly, which would give Cornwall more power to make its own decisions. 


The Combined Universities in Cornwall project begins, bringing university level education to Cornwall for the first time.

The Cornish language is officially recognised by the UK government.


The hit television cartoon show The Simpsons features Lisa Simpson demanding ‘Freedom for Cornwall now’ in the Cornish language.


Some of Cornwall’s Members of Parliament swear their oaths in the Cornish language.


The Cornish mining landscape is granted World Heritage Site status by UNESCO.


The pasty is given protected status meaning only pasties made in Cornwall can be called Cornish pasties.


The Queen’s barge Gloriana flies the Cornish flag, together with those of the other nations of the UK, during the Golden Jubilee celebrations. 


The number of school children in Cornwall identifying themselves as Cornish more than doubles from 23.7% in 2006 to 48% in 2014.

St Piran’s Oratory is uncovered and people can visit it for the first time in over 30 years. An estimated 5,000 people gather in Redruth to celebrate St Piran’s Day.

Cornish people are officially recognised as a national minority and included under the Framework Convention for the Projection of National Minorities.



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