Copyright © 2007 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.
The social life of corvids
Available online 20 August 2007.
Of the 120 species of birds in the corvid family, which includes the crows, ravens, magpies and jays, the bare-faced rook is perhaps the most social of them all. At a rookery in Norfolk, for example, winter roosts can number up to 60,000 individuals. The name for a congregation of rooks is a ‘parliament’. In English folklore, parliament is an apt name for rook justice, as it is said that rooks form a circle around a wrongdoer producing a cacophony of calls and caws which can go on for hours until the offender is either attacked and killed or released to live another day. Although only fiction, such tales reflect their canny reputation as thieves and tricksters, as well as possessors of great wisdom.
Like most birds, corvids are monogamous, and the core unit is therefore the mated pair. This pair bond is typically for life, and the pair remains together throughout the year. For example, rooks and ravens find a partner during the autumn months, taking part in impressive aerobatic displays and food sharing which may be to assess the quality of a potential mate. Once juvenile rooks and ravens pair, they engage in extensive mutual preening and bill twining (bill holding) and support one another in fights.