I know that many of the corvids are scavengers, that they will eat whatever they can find and this is how they survive where other birds do not fare so well. However, having fed many eager steller's jays peanuts it never occurred to me that they actually DO eat meat, if given the opportunity or if needed. But according to an article about a deer hunter by Carla Petersen1, some hunters hung a deer they had killed in their garage and,
"a Steller's Jay latched onto the side of the carcass as if it were some kind of a giant suet feeder. That jay was sent packing but more jays were now posted on either side of the garage and weren't shy about entering if no one was around. [One guy] added a little extra fencing on the doors, hoping to put an end to the intrusions, but the birds were persistent and willing to fly through fairly small gaps.
[Their] final solution was to put a slab of fat outside for the birds. The Steller's Jays, with much posturing and discussion among themselves, have been feeding there for days, taking turns with the crows and ravens to fatten up for winter the easy way."
I know the crows and Steller's Jays I feed prefer peanuts over bread, raw beef, and bird seeds. So, maybe it is a matter of survival -- eat whatever is available but if given some leeway, they will choose by taste.
Today, I decided to introduce the Fan-tailed Raven officially known as the Corvus rhipidurus. This corvid is native to Eastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It is much smaller than most other corvids at around 18 inches long. It has a thick bill, short tail and large wings. It looks thinner than the Common Raven and is completely black with a purplish-blue gloss in the right lighting. If it is an older Fan-tailed Raven it can appear slightly coppery-brown.
Their voice is described as guttural croaks mixed with the sound of frog-call.
It lives in desert or open dry country that includes crags for nesting. It is one of the most aerial of birds traveling huge distances in search of food, its large wings being adapted to gliding on thermals in a rather vulture-like way.
The Fan-tailed Raven eats insects, invertebrates, grains taken from other animal's dung, human food scraps, parasites of other animals and garbage. It will also eat a variety of fruit.
I like this bird. It is interesting, too bad I live so far from it. Does anyone you know or do you live near it? Have any stories you wish to tell?
Another excellent photograph found on flickr. This one is by Mark Cummins. If you click on the photograph it will take you to the URL where it is originally posted.
I am not 100% certain what particular bird this is in the corvidae family. However, I think it might be a rook but I am reluctant to say this for certain with authority because I am not so familiar with rooks to recognize off the top of my head. It looks like a rook and it looks like it the same bird I previously posted by the same photographer and it was a rook. So, I imagine it is either the same bird or a similar one. =)
This is the Corvus frugilegus which means "food-gathering" in Latin. They are more commonly referred to as the Rook. I have not had the great pleasure of seeing this bird in person but I am very excited to learn about it. It looks like a harsher, thinner crow. It appears, to me, to have had a hard-knock-life. I like how it wears its character, much like I relish the quirks in people; a wrinkle earned through years of laughter and tears, an innocent freckle just above the wrist, the shy happiness in a crooked smile, the confident swing of a left-leaning gait.
From what I've learned about the Rook, you can differentiate it from similar corvids by looking for the "bare gray-white skin around the base of the adult's bill in front of the eyes or the feathering around the legs; it looks shaggier and laxer than the congeneric Carrion Crow."1
It seems it is found all over Europe and east of Europe. I read that it is found in Great Britain quite frequently.
Much like all corvids, it is a survivor. It will eat just about anything depending on where it lives. It prefers earthworms and insect larvae but will eat cereal grain, fruit, insects, crustaceans, small animals, acorns, bird eggs, and will pilfer through the trash for food scraps in urban areas.2
The Rook nests together in a colony. This is commonly referred to as colonial nesting which means nesting with many other birds in a safe place and living commune-style. The Rooks learn from one another and find food together. They protect one another but they are still predatory birds, so they can be found stealing from another from time to time. They prefer to nest way up high in trees. They typically have 3-5 eggs which are incubated for 16-18 days and the fledglings are cared for by their parents and other rooks for about a month.
Once fully fledged, they get together with other single rooks and sometimes even jackdaws and fly around, presumably deciding who they will mate with in the future. Or perhaps just enjoying the free, young, single life...flying around without a care.
You can hear a rook here.
It sounds much like most crows but maybe a little throatier which matches how they look, for me anyways. =) I like their throaty "caw".
Rooks are interesting birds. And so they are written about...people speculate about their abilities and even conjure up powers for these intelligent birds. I found the following on Wikipedia... it is a direct copy and paste but interesting.
Like many other members of the Corvidae family, the Rook features prominently in folklore. Traditionally, Rooks are said to be able to forecast weather and to sense the approach of death. If a rookery — the colonial nesting area of rooks — were abandoned, it was said to bring bad fortune for the family that owned the land. Another folk-tale holds that rooks are responsible for escorting the souls of the virtuous dead to heaven. William Butler Yeats may be making reference to the latter tale in his poem The Cold Heaven.
In Neil Gaiman's Sandman comic book series, Abel reveals that the parliament would surround a single rook, with that one telling a story. If the story was not liked, the parliament would attack and kill the speaker.
In Brian Jacques's Redwall series, rooks make an appearance in Mattimeo. Rooks, along with magpies and other similar birds make up the army of General Ironbeak, one of the villains in the book.
In Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series, rooks are seen as agents of the Dark and the sign-seeker, Will Stanton is warned never to fully trust one.
In Phillip Pullman's book Northern Lights Lyra Belacqua and Roger Parslow catch and heal an injured rook on the college rooftop.
In Stephen King's Dark Tower entry Wizard and Glass, one of the characters, Cuthbert Allgood, carries a rook's skull tied around his neck, claiming it as a good luck charm.
I am now an official fan of the Rook. I may always have been but I simply did not know it.
Do YOU have a Rook story to share with me? I would love to hear one (or many!) If so, e-mail me below.
Originally uploaded by quasimodo4502
What a beautiful bird this is, isn't it? He looks like he has a helmet, almost, doesn't he? This was taken by Quasimodo4502 at Golden Gate Park. You can see the original photograph on Flickr. =)
I decided since it is Halloween, I would tell you a bit about the raven. =)
Did you know the "common raven" is the most widely distributed corvid of all? It is all over the Northern hemisphere. Like me, they prefer to stay away from places too hot. =)
They are omnivorous...meaning they will eat just about anything. This helps them survive and thrive. They are intelligent birds and beautiful. This is why they are so popular. There are poems about them, songs, stories, folklore, and obviously a lot of art.
If you'd like to draw one, paint one or photograph one and share it... we will post it. =)
Let us know (See below).
Let me end this with the very famous, very loved "The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe.
The ravenOnce upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore -While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.«Tis some visitor», I muttered, «tapping at my chamber door: Only this and nothing more».Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor,Eagerly I wished the morrow; vainly I had sought to borrowFrom my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore - Nameless here for evermore.And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtainThrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating«Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door - This it is and nothing more».Presently my soul grew stronger: hesitating then no longer,«Sir», said I, «or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;But the fact is, I was napping, and so gently you came rapping.And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,That I scarce was sure I heard you». - Here I opened wide the door - Darkness there, and nothing more.Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing,Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;Put the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,And the only world there spoken was the whispered word, «Lenore!»This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, «Lenore!» This, and nothing more.Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,Soon again I heard a tapping, somewhat louder than before.«Surely», said I, «surely that is something at my window lattice;Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore, -Let my heart be still a moment, and this mystery explore, «Tis the wind, and nothing more».Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.Not the least obeisance made he, not a minute stopped or stayed he,But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -Perched, and sat, and nothing more.Then, this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smilingBy the grave and stem decorum of the countenance it wore,«Though the crest be shorn and shaven, thou», I said, «art sure no craven,Ghastly, grim, and ancient Raven, wandering from the nightly shore.Tell me what thy lordly name is on the night's Plutonian shore!» Quoth the Raven, «Nevermore».Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,Though its answer little meaning, little relevancy bore;For we cannot help agreeing that no living human beingEver yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door - With such name as «Nevermore».But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke onlyThat one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.Nothing farther then he uttered, not a feather then he fluttered;Till I scarcely more than muttered, «Other friends have flown before!On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before!» Then the bird said, «Nevermore.»Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,«Doubtless» said I, «what it utters is its only stock and store;Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful DisasterFollowing fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore Of «Never - nevermore !»But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door}Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linkingFancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird oi yore Meant in croaking «Nevermore».This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressingTo the fowl, whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease recliningOn the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'cr -But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o'er, She shall press, ah, nevermore!Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censerSwung by seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.«Wretch,» I cried, «thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he hath sent theeRespite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!Quaff, O quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!» Quoth the Raven, «Nevermore».«Prophet!» said I, «thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore?Is there - is there balm in Gilead ? - tell me - tell me, I implore I» Qucth the Raven, «Nevermore».«Prophet!» said I, «thing of evil - prophet still, if bird or devil! -By that heaven that bends above us, by that God we both adore,Tell this soul with sorrow laden, if, within the distant Aidenn,It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore -Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore!» Quoth the Raven, «Nevermore».«Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!» I shrieked upstarting.«Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!» Quoth the Raven, «Nevermore».And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sittingOn the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted - nevermore!