ONE OF Scotland's rarest resident breeding birds, already confined to two islands and apparently in remorseless decline, has been thrown a lifeline.

The red-billed chough in Scotland is restricted to Islay and Colonsay and has been in serious decline for several years, according to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH)

Only 39 breeding pairs were counted on Islay in 2013 compared with 95 breeding pairs in 1986.Conservationists from Islay and Aberdeen University who had been studying the island's chough population noticed that the problem seemed to be a poor survival rate for young choughs.

Few birds were managing to survive the two to three year period from when they leave the nest as fledglings through to adulthood.

To try to help them through these difficult early years and halt the population decline, SNH and the Scottish Chough Study Group, with the help of local farmers, joined forces to provide additional food for the young birds.

For the last three seasons, the young choughs have been provided with a nutritious mealworm snack at their pre-roost feeding areas, before they go to their communal roosts at night.

Rae McKenzie, SNH policy and advice manager said the project was paying off and a census had counted 46 breeding pairs."