The social life of corvids
Nicola S. Clayton1, and Nathan J. Emery2,1Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EB, UK
2Sub-department of Animal Behaviour, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 8AA, UK
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.
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.
Isn't this a beautiful bird? This is a "Red-Billed Blue Magpie" and it is in the Corvidae family. Here is what the photographer had to say about this bird:
The Red-billed Blue Magpie is a species of bird in the crow family Corvidae. It is about the same size as the European Magpie but has a much longer tail.
The Red-billed Blue Magpie occurs in a broad swathe from the western Himalayas, eastwards into China and Vietnam in evergreen forest and scrub in predominantly hilly or mountainous country.
Food is sought both in trees and on the ground. It takes the usual wide range of food, such as invertebrates, other small animals, and fruit and some seeds. It robs nests of eggs and also chicks.
The Red-billed Blue Magpie nests in trees and large shrubs in a relatively shallow nest. There are usually three to five eggs laid.
Vocal mimicry is very apparent in this species and its calls are very varied, but the most usual are a grating rattle and a high pitched whistle a little like a flute.