Bird Watching (UK) - - Your Birding Month -

FROM TIME TO time we cel­e­brate as Bird of the Month a species which would come un­der the cat­e­gory ‘for­got­ten trea­sure’. The Rook is a clas­sic case in point. Some would ar­gue that the Rook is hardly a trea­sure, but oth­ers may agree that this re­ally is a charm­ing corvid. Charm­ing, that is, if you like weird-look­ing, peg-billed, bald-faced crows. Rooks, of course, nest in rook­eries, some of the most ob­vi­ous nest­ing struc­tures of any of our ter­res­trial birds. In­deed, these colonies are part and par­cel of ru­ral Bri­tain. So in­grained are they in our na­tional con­scious­ness, they, para­dox­i­cally, be­come for­got­ten. They also feed in large groups. But don’t be fooled by the old adage that a sin­gle crow is a crow (ie Car­rion Crow) but sev­eral crows to­gether must be Rooks. Of­ten, Car­rion Crows also ap­pear in large num­bers. That said, it is more of a habit for Rooks, which also mix with their smaller Jack­daw cousins. Also, Car­rion Crows do not nest colo­nially. Rooks are not hard to iden­tify if seen well. The com­bi­na­tion of pale grey face and bill base, peg-shaped bill, high crown and steep fore­head, and ‘shaggy trousered’ look are dis­tinc­tive. In flight, the rounded (not square) tail is eas­ily seen, and with prac­tice, the flight style of the Rook is sub­tly dif­fer­ent from that of the Car­rion Crow. The voice is dis­tinc­tive, de­scribed as a more ‘po­lite caw’ by our own Do­minic Couzens (com­pared to the cruder, more vul­gar ‘caw’ of the crow). They also pro­duce high squeaky notes, par­tic­u­larly in flight. If you hear such a note, look up and pay your re­spects to this oft-for­got­ten char­ac­ter.

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