Sunday, 24 January 2010

Rook

A not very good picture of a fleeting visitor.

The good stuff comes from SewAli's Lumberjack for which I am hugely grateful. He's a very experienced birder and terribly generous with his knowledge.

If you see one rook there will be others about and there should be a rookery around somewhere as they are highly social.

Rooks are very special birds, quintessentially English and highly intelligent but sadly far less numerous than they used to be. They traditionally nested in elm trees, in rookeries that were often hundreds of years old, but Dutch Elm disease killed off the elms and gave them a problem.

They are superficially like crows (i.e. carrion crow) and the usual way to tell them apart is by the rook's white parchment face, at the base of the beak (although young rooks have a black face) which you can see clearly in the photo.

Rooks are quite different in character from crows though. They are noisy and playful and do not have the carnivorous and rapacious nature of carrion crows. They subsist mainly on grubs and seed (although will take the odd vole if they come across one out in the fields.)

Rooks are also slightly smaller than crows, have a longer thinner probing beak rather than the pick-axe of the crow, are more 'ragged'-looking in flight and their thigh feathers give a 'baggy trousers' look rather than the sleek look of the crow. Also when the light hits their plumage they tend to show a purple iridescence rather than the green-ish shown by the crow.

3 comments:

  1. From VegHeaven:

    we have a rookery at the end of our road and the rooks like to run up and down on the flat roofs of the bedroom dormers! They are real characters and at nesting time they can be seen flying over the garden with twigs as big as themselves, flapping along and squawking with each wing beat. I love them!

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  2. We too have a rookery, over the road. They spend hours in the field behind our house - especially in the snow, trying to pluck up courage to come into the garden. Bring your camera next time you are here Bilbo, you'll be able to capture loads of them!

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