Range.–Western North America from the Great Plains to the Pacific and from Alaska to Arizona and New Mexico.
These large handsome birds have the entire head, neck and breast velvety black, abruptly defined against the white underparts. The back, wings and tail are greenish or bluish black, and the scapulars, white; length of bird 20 inches. They are well known throughout the west, where their bold and thievish habits always excite comment. They nest in bushes and trees at low elevations from the ground, making a very large nest of sticks, with an opening on the side, and the interior is made of weeds and mud, lined with fine grasses; these nests often reach a diameter of three feet and are made of quite large sticks. During April or May, they lay from four to eight grayish white eggs, plentifully spotted with brown and drab. Size 1.25 x .90.
476. Yellow-billed Magpie. Pica nuttalli.
Range.–Middle parts of California, west of the Sierra Nevadas.
This species is slightly smaller than the last and has a yellowish bill and lores, otherwise being precisely like the more common species. Their habits do not differ from those of the other, the nests are the same and the eggs are indistinguishable. Size 1.25 x .88.
NEST OF AMERICAN MAGPIE.
YOUNG BLUE JAYS.
477. Blue Jay. Cyanocitta cristata cristata.
Range.–North America, east of the Plains and north to Hudson Bay; resident and very abundant in its United States range.
These beautiful and bold marauders are too well known to need description, suffice it to say that they are the most beautiful of North American Jays; but beneath their handsome plumage beats a heart as cruel and cunning as that in any bird of prey. In the fall, winter and spring, their food consists largely of acorns, chestnuts, berries, seeds, grain, insects, lizards, etc., but during the summer months they destroy and devour a great many eggs and young of the smaller birds, their taste for which, being so great that they are known to watch a nest until the full complement of eggs is laid before making their theft. They nest in open woods or clumps of trees, indifferently, in pines or young trees, building most often below twenty feet from the ground; the nests are made of twigs and rootlets, lined with fine rootlets. During May they lay from four to six eggs of a greenish buff color spotted with olive brown. Size 1.10 x .80.
477a. Florida Blue Jay. Cyanocitta cristata florincola.
Range.–Florida and the Gulf coast.
The nesting habits and eggs of this smaller sub-species are the same as those of the northern Blue Jay. Like our birds, they frequently nest near habitations.
478. Steller’s Jay. Cyanocitta stelleri stelleri.
Range.–Pacific coast from southern California to Alaska; resident and breeding throughout its range.
All the members of this sub-species are similar in plumage, having a sooty black head, crest and neck, shading insensibly into dark bluish on the back and underparts, and brighter blue on the wings and tail. They usually have a few streaks or spots of pale blue on the forehead. They are just as noisy, bold and thievish as the eastern Jay and are also excellent mimics like the latter. They nest in fir trees at any height from the ground and in April or May deposit their three to six greenish blue eggs which are spotted with various shades of brown. Size 1.25 x .90. Their nests are more bulky than those of the eastern Jay and are usually made of larger sticks and held together with some mud.
Range.–Northern Rocky Mountains from northern Colorado to British Columbia.
The eggs of this sub-species cannot be identified from those of the other varieties. Like the others, their nests are made of sticks plastered together with mud and lined with weeds and rootlets.
478d. Queen Charlotte Jay. Cyanocitta stelleri carlottæ.
Range.–Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia.
479. Florida Jay. Aphelocoma cyanea.
Range.–Locally distributed in Florida.
All the birds of this genus have no crests or decided markings, are white or grayish below, and more or less intense blue above, with the back grayish or brownish blue. This species is 11.5 inches long, has a pale blue crown and a nearly white forehead. It has a very limited distribution, being confined chiefly to the coast districts of middle Florida, and very abundant in some localities and rare in adjoining ones. They build shallow structures of small sticks and weeds lined with fine rootlets and placed at low elevations in bushes or scrubby trees. The three or four eggs, which are laid in April or May are dull greenish blue, marked with olive brown. Size 1.00 x .80. Data.–Titusville, Fla., April 17, 1899. Nest of sticks in a scrub oak, five feet from the ground.
480. Woodhouse’s Jay. Aphelocoma woodhousei.
Range.–United States west of the Rockies and from Oregon and Wyoming to Mexico.
This species has the crown and forehead bluish, and the underparts gray, streaked with bluish gray on the breast. It is also larger than the last, being 12 inches long. They are very abundant in the Great Basin between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevadas, breeding during April or May in scrubby trees or bushes at low elevations and generally near streams. They lay from three to five eggs of a dull bluish green color, spotted with umber and lilac gray. Size 1.08 x .80. Data.–Iron County, Utah, May 3, 1897. 4 eggs. Nest of sticks and weeds in a small pine tree.
480.1. Blue-eared Jay. Aphelocoma cyanotis.
Range.–Interior of Mexico north to the southern boundary of Texas.
The nesting habits of this species are the same as those of the others of the genus and the eggs are similar but the markings are generally more prominent and larger. Size 1.10 × .80.
480.2. Texas Jay. Aphelocoma texana.
It is not likely that the eggs of this species differ essentially from those of many of the others.
481. California Jay. Aphelocoma californica californica.
Range.–Pacific coast of California and Washington.
Bright bluish green.
This is a very abundant species both about habitations and in low woodlands. They are very bold and familiar, stealing everything they may take a fancy to, and frequently robbing smaller birds of their eggs and young. They are said to be more tame and familiar than the eastern Blue Jay, thereby bringing their bad habits much more frequently to the attention of the masses. They nest most often in bushes or low trees, but not as a rule, far above the ground. Their eggs are a bright bluish green color, speckled and spotted with brownish and lavender. Size 1.10 × .80.
A darker variety of the California Jay, whose nesting habits will not differ in any essential particular.
481.1. Santa Cruz Jay. Aphelocoma insularis.
Range.–Santa Cruz Island, California.
This species is the largest and darkest colored bird of the genus Aphelocoma. It is said to be a very abundant species on the island from which it takes its name, and to have the habits and traits common to all the members of the Jay family. The nesting habits are the same as those of the others, but the eggs are slightly larger, averaging 1.15 × .85. Set of three in the collection of John Lewis Childs, taken by R. H. Beck on May 10, 1897.
482. Arizona Jay. Aphelocoma sieberi arizonæ.
Range.–Arizona and southwestern New Mexico south into Mexico.
482a. Couch’s Jay. Aphelocoma sieberi couchi.
Range.–Eastern Mexico, north to western Texas.
483. Green Jay. Xanthoura luxuosa glaucescens.
Range.–Northeastern Mexico and the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas.
This handsome species has a bright blue crown and patches under the eyes, the rest of the upper parts being greenish; throat and sides of head black, underparts greenish white. This gaudy and noisy bird has all the habits common to other Jays including that of robbing birds’ nests. They build generally in tangled thickets or low bushes, placing their nests at a low elevation and making them of twigs, weeds, moss, etc., lined with fine rootlets. Their four or five eggs, which are laid during April or May, are grayish buff in color, spotted with various shades of brown and lavender gray. Size 1.20 × .85.
Range.–Southeastern British Provinces and the adjacent portions of the United States; west to the Rockies.
This is the bird that is well known to hunters of “big game” by various names such as “Whiskey Jack”, “Moose Bird”, “Camp Robber”, etc. During the winter months, owing to the scarcity of food, their thieving propensities are greatly enhanced and they remove everything from the camps, which looks as though it might be edible. Birds of this genus are smoky gray on the back and lighter below, shading to white on the throat; the forehead and part of the crown is white and the nape blackish. Their nests are placed at low elevations in bushes or fir trees, and are usually very different from any of the preceding Jays’ nests. They are nearly as high as wide, and are made of small twigs, moss, catkins, weeds and feathers making a soft spongy mass which is placed in an upright crotch. The eggs are a yellowish gray color spotted and blotched with brown and grayish. Size 1.15 × .80. Data.–Innisfail, Alberta, March 12, 1903. Nest a beautiful structure of twigs, moss and feathers in a willow bush, 6 feet from the ground. The thermometer registered 32 below zero the day the eggs were taken. Collector, W. Blackwood.
484a. Rocky Mountain Jay. Perisoreus canadensis capitalis.Range.–Rocky Mountains from Montana to Arizona.This variety has the whole crown white and only a small amount of blackish on the nape. Its nesting habits and eggs are precisely like those of the last.
This is a darker variety of the Canada Jay. Its eggs cannot be distinguished from those of any of the others of the genus.
485. Oregon Jay. Perisoreus obscurus obscurus.
Range.–Mountain ranges from northern California to British Columbia.
These birds are very similar to canadensis but have the whole underparts white. Like the Canada Jays they appear to be wholly fearless and pay little or no attention to the presence of mankind. Their nesting habits and eggs are the same as the preceding except that they have generally been found nesting near the tops of tall fir trees. Size of eggs, 1.05 × .80.
485a. Gray Jay. Perisoreus obscurus griseus.Range.–British Columbia to northern California, east of the coast ranges.This bird is said to be larger and grayer than the preceding.
486. Raven. Corvus corax sinuatus.
Range.–North America west of the Rockies and from British Columbia southward.
Pale greenish white.
The Raven is like a very large Crow, length 24 inches, but has the feathers on the neck lengthened and stiffened. Their habits are similar to those of the Crow, but more dignified, and they remain mated for life. Besides grasshoppers and worms, they feed largely upon animal matter such as lizards, shell fish, frogs, eggs and young of birds, and carrion. They nest on ledges of high inaccessible cliffs or the tops of tall trees, making large nests of sticks lined with smaller ones and hair or wool; the eggs are laid in April or May, number from four to seven, and are light greenish in color, blotched with umber and drab. Size 1.95 × 1.25.
486a. Northern Raven. Corvus corax principalis.
Range.–Eastern North America chiefly north of the United States and northwest to Alaska; south on some of the higher ranges to Georgia.
This variety is like the last but is larger. They are not nearly as abundant as the western form and are very rare within the United States. A few pairs still breed on some of the rocky islands off the coast of Maine; more off New Brunswick and Newfoundland, and they are quite common on the cliffs of Labrador and Alaska. Their nesting habits and eggs are like those of the last.
487. White-necked Raven. Corvus cryptoleucus.
Range.–Mexico and the border of the United States; north to eastern Kansas.
Pale bluish green.
This small Raven is of about the size of the Crow, and has the bases of the neck feathers white. They are very abundant in some localities, especially in southern Arizona. Their food consists chiefly of animal matter, the same as the large Ravens, and they are not nearly as shy, frequently feeding in camps upon refuse which is thrown out to them. They build at low elevations in any tree, but preferably in mesquites, making their nests of sticks and lining them with hair, leaves, bark, wool or anything soft. During June they lay from four to six pale bluish green eggs, generally sparingly spotted or scratched with dark brown and drab. Size 1.75 × 1.20.
American Crow. American Raven.
488. Crow. Corvus brachyrhynchos brachyrhynchos.
Range.–Whole of North America south of the Arctic Circle; most abundant in eastern United States; rare in many localities in the west.
These birds, against which the hand of every farmer is uplifted, are very shy and cunning; as is well known, they nearly always post a sentinel in some tree top to keep watch while the rest of the flock is feeding in the field below. In the fall and winter, large numbers of them flock, and at night all roost in one piece of woods; some of the “crow roosts” are of vast extent and contain thousands of individuals.
Crows nest near the tops of large trees, preferably pines, either in woods or single trees in fields. Their nests are made of sticks and lined with rootlets, and the eggs, which are laid in April or May, range from four to seven in number, are a bluish or greenish white, sparingly or very densely speckled, spotted and blotched with various shades of brown and lilac. Size 1.60 × 1.15.
This variety has a slightly shorter tail and wings than the last.
490. Fish Crow. Corvus ossifragus.
Range.–Northwest coast from Oregon to Alaska.
This small Crow which is but 16 inches in length, is found only on the coast, where they feed upon shell fish and offal. They nest, as do the Ravens, either on ledges or in tree tops. The eggs resemble those of the common Crow, but are smaller. Size 1.55 × 1.05.
489. Northwestern Crow. Corvus caurinus.
Range.–South Atlantic and Gulf coasts, north in summer to Connecticut.
From Virginia southward, this small Crow (length 16 inches) is more abundant on the coast than the common Crow which is often in company with this species. Their food consists of grain, berries, and animal matter. Their nesting habits are like those of the common Crow and the eggs are similar and have as great variations, but are smaller. Size 1.45 × 1.05.
491. Clarke’s Nutcracker. Nucifraga columbiana.
Range.–Mountains of western North America from Mexico to Alaska.
The Clarke Crow, as this bird is often known, is a common resident in most of its range. The adults are grayish with black wings and central tail feathers, the tips of the primaries and outer tail feathers being white. Their tail is short and their flight slow and somewhat undulating like that of some of the Woodpeckers. Their food consists of anything edible from seeds and larvæ in the winter to insects, berries, eggs and young birds at other seasons. In the spring they retire to the tops of ranges, nearly to the limit of trees, where they build their large nests of sticks, twigs, weeds, strips of bark, and fibres matted together so as to form a soft round ball with a deeply cupped interior; the nest is located at from ten to forty feet from the ground in pine trees and the eggs are laid early before the snow begins to leave. They are three in number, grayish in color with a greenish tinge and finely spotted over the whole surface with dark brown and lavender. Size 1.30 × .90. Data.–Salt Lake Co., Utah, April 25, 1900. Nest placed in pine 40 feet up on a horizontal branch, and not visible from below. The tree was at the upper edge of a pine forest at an altitude of about 3000 feet above Salt Lake City. The nest was discovered by seeing the parent fly into the tree; the next day a nest was found with three young nearly ready to fly. Collector, W. H. Parker. This set of three eggs is in the oological collection of Mr. C. W. Crandall.
492. Pinon Jay. Cyanocephalus cyanocephalus.
Range.–Western United States between the Rockies and Sierra Nevadas, and from southern British Columbia to Arizona.
This Crow-like Jay has a nearly uniform bluish plumage, and is found abundantly in the pine belts of its range. Their habits are similar to those of the Clarke Crow and the nests are similarly built at lower elevations in pines or junipers. During April or May they lay from three to five eggs of a bluish white color specked and spotted with brown. Size 1.20 × .85.
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net
Title: The Bird Book
Illustrating in natural colors more than seven hundred
North American birds; also several hundred photographs of
their nests and eggs
What a beautiful little bird! According to the Crater Lake Institute, four of the six birds mostly like to be seen at Crater Lake in Oregon are corvids: Ravens, Gray Jays, Stellers’ Jays, and Clark’s Nutcrackers (see yesterday’s post about this clever little corvid!)
Let me introduce you to the Javan Green Magpie, also known as the the Short-tailed Magpie or Cissa Thalassina.
Striking bird, eh? The Javan Green Magpie is part of the Corvidae family. This beautiful bird is endemic to the mountain forests on the Southeast Asian islands of Borneo and Java. Yep, those are the only two places you can find the Javan Green Magpie. It lives in thick vegetation in the upper and middle levels of forests and makes only short flights.
The Bornean subspecies jeffreyi has whitish eyes. The nominate subspecies from Java, as well as other members of the genus (Cissa), have dark reddish-brown eyes. The Javan Green Magpie is considered critically endangered with a population of about 50 to 249 mature individuals. ((http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=112641)) ” It has also been suggested that the total population probably does not exceed 100 individuals and could number fewer than 50 individuals, as there may be only one or two dozen birds at each of up to four sites where the species was recorded from 2001 to 2011 and may still be extant (van Balen et al. 2011).” ((http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=112641&m=1)) These birds are endangered because of habitat loss and habitat degradation driven primarily by agricultural expansion, logging and mining. Unfortunately, they are also often trapped in cages set out for the cage-bird trade business. =( Only a small number have ever been recorded in bird markets which indicates they are caught but then killed because they are not necessary. ((van Balen et al. 2011))
As you can see from the photograph above, the Javan Green Magpie mostly eats invertebrates and small vertebrate prey as well as berries (I saw a photograph of one with a berry in its mouth). Breeding appears to take place throughout the year, with a preference for the months with highest rainfall (October -April). Clutch size is one or two (van Balen et al. 2011 and references therein).
It is slightly larger than a blue jay.
I couldn’t find much more about this beautiful bird but if you can, please share!
The Siberian jay (Perisoreus infaustus) is a bird inhabiting old-growth coniferous taiga forests. ((http://www.jstor.org/pss/3683509)) The Siberian jay is found in north Eurasia. The species has a wide range (estimated global Extent of Occurrence 10,000,000km²) and a large global population (estimated 680,000-1,400,000 in Europe). ((Source: Wikipedia))
Little more is published online about the Siberian Jay. I will do some further research in my local library and update this post at some point.
The Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis), also Grey Jay, Canada Jay, or Whiskey Jack, is a member of the crow and jay family (Corvidae) found in the boreal forests across North America north to the tree-line and in subalpine forests of the Rocky Mountains south to New Mexico and Arizona. It is one of three members of the genus Perisoreus, the others being the Siberian Jay, P. infaustus, found from Norway to eastern Russia and the Sichuan Jay, P. internigrans, restricted to the mountains of eastern Tibet and northwestern Sichuan. All three species store food and live year-round on permanent territories in coniferous forests.
The gray jay is a native resident from northern Alaska east to Newfoundland and Labrador and south to northern California, Idaho, Utah, east-central Arizona, north-central New Mexico, central Colorado, and southwestern South Dakota. It is also a native resident in northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, northern Michigan, northern New York, and northern New England. The gray jay may wander north of the breeding range. In winter it travels irregularly to northwestern Nebraska, central Minnesota, southeastern Wisconsin, central Michigan, southern Pennsylvania, central New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
Perisoreus canadensis albescens is a resident from northeastern British Columbia and northwestern Alberta southeastward, east of the Rocky Mountains to South Dakota (Black Hills). It is casual in northwestern Nebraska.
Perisoreus c. arcus is a resident in the Rainbow Mountains area, and headwaters of the Dean and Bella Coola Rivers of the central Coast Ranges, British Columbia.
Perisoreus c. barbouri is a resident on Anticosti Island, Quebec.
Perisoreus c. bicolor is a resident in southeastern British Columbia, southwestern Alberta, eastern Washington, northeastern Oregon, northern and central Idaho, and western Montana.
Perisoreus c. canadensis breeds from northern British Columbia east to Prince Edward Island, and south to northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, northern Michigan, northeastern New York, northern Vermont, northern New Hampshire, and Maine. It winters at lower altitudes within the breeding range and south to southern Ontario and Massachusetts, casually to central Minnesota, southeastern Wisconsin, northwestern Pennsylvania, and central New York. Perisoreus c. canadensis is accidental in northeastern Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).
Perisoreus c. capitalis is a resident in the southern Rocky Mountains from eastern Idaho, central south-central Montana, and western and southern Wyoming south through eastern Utah, and western and central Colorado, to central eastern Arizona and north-central New Mexico.
Perisoreus c. griseus is a resident from southwestern British Columbia and Vancouver Island south through central Washington and central Oregon to the mountains of north-central and northeastern California.
Perisoreus c. nigracapillus is a resident in northern Quebec (Fort Chimo, Whale River, and George River), throughout Labrador, and in southeastern Quebec (Mingan and Blanc Sablon).
Perisoreus c. obscurus is a resident in the coastal belt from Washington (Crescent Lake, Seattle, and Columbia River) through western Oregon to northwestern California (Humboldt County).
Perisoreus c. pacificus is a resident in north-central Alaska (Kobuk River, Endicott Mountains, and Fort Yukon), northern Yukon (Arctic Circle at the International Boundary), and northwestern Mackenzie (Mackenzie Delta and lower Horton River) south in Alaska to latitude 60° N.
Perisoreus c. sanfordi is a resident in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
Habitat and distribution
Perisoreus canadensis obscurus in Mount Rainier National ParkThe vast majority of Gray Jays live where there is a strong presence of one or more of black spruce (Picea mariana), white spruce (P. glauca), Englemann spruce (P. engelmanni), jack pine (Pinus banksiana), or lodgepole pine (P. contorta). Gray Jays do not inhabit the snowy, coniferous, and therefore seemingly appropriate Sierra Nevada of California where no spruce and neither of the two named pines occur. Nor do Gray Jays live in lower elevations of coastal Alaska or British Columbia dominated by Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis). The key habitat requirements may be sufficiently cold temperatures to ensure successful storage of perishable food and tree bark with sufficiently pliable scales arranged in a shingle-like configuration that allows Gray Jays to wedge food items easily up into dry, concealed storage locations. Storage may also be assisted by the antibacterial properties of the bark and foliage of boreal tree species. An exception to this general picture may be the well-marked subspecies P. c. obscurus, once given separate specific status as the “Oregon Jay”. It lives right down to the coast from Washington to northern California in the absence of cold temperatures or the putatively necessary tree species.
Gray jays typically breed at 2 years of age. Pairs are monogamous and remain together for their lifetime, but a male or female will find another mate following the disappearance or death of their partner. Gray jay pairs breed during March and April, depending on latitude, in permanent, all-purpose territories. Second broods are not attempted, perhaps allowing greater time for food storage.
Gray jays cooperatively breed. Strickland studied cooperative breeding of gray jays in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, and La Verendrye Provincial Park, Quebec. In early June, when broods were 55 to 65 days old, the young fought amongst themselves until dominant juveniles forced their siblings to leave the natal area. Dominant juveniles, known as “stayers”, remained with their parents, and “leavers” left the natal territory to join an unrelated pair who failed to breed. Two-thirds of “stayers” were male.
During the nest-building phase of the subsequent breeding season, approximately 65% of gray jay trios included “stayers” from the previous spring and their parents, and approximately 30% of trios included an unrelated “leaver”. Occasionally, two nonbreeders accompany a pair of adults. “Stayers” may eventually inherit the natal territory and breed, and “leavers” may eventually fill a vacancy nearby or form a new breeding pair on previously unoccupied ground. The role of “stayers” is to retrieve caches and bring food to younger siblings; however, this is only allowed by the parents during the postfledgling period. Until then, parents are hostile toward the “stayer”. This may reduce the frequency of predator-attracting visits to the nest when young are most vulnerable. The benefits of allofeeding may include “lightening the load” for the breeding pair, which may possibly increase longevity, reducing the probability of starvation of nestlings, and detecting and mobbing predators near the nest.
The Black Racket-tailed Treepie (Crypsirina temia) is an Asian treepie, a member of the Corvidae (crow) family.
It has a velvety-black forehead of short, plush black feathers with the rest of the bird being an oily green colour, though appearing black in dim light. The tail feathers which in this species are long and broaden at the tail’s end are black also with a greenish tinge, as are the wings. The iris of the bird is a turquoise-blue darkening towards the pupil to a very deep or near black. The bill, legs and feet are black.
This bird occurs in southern Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Indo-China, Sumatra, Java and Bali in scrub and secondary growth, open fields and gardens, bamboo thickets and open forest often near villages.
It almost always feeds in trees (arboreal) never feeding from the ground though coming down to bathe on occasion. It moves through the trees with great agility and uses its remarkable tail as a balancing organ. It eats mainly insects and fruit.
A cup shaped nest is built in bamboo or shrubs especially thorny ones often surrounded by open grassy areas and normally lays 2–4 eggs.
The voice is usually described as harsh and unattractive. It has several described calls but a whining call is often heard.
I did a previous post on this rare bird but I have found new information, so let’s read about it again, shall we?
According to the IUCN 3.1 Red List, the Andaman Treepie is nearly threatened. It is endemic to the Andaman Islands in India. Since the Andaman Treepie lives within a very limited habitat, it is in danger of extinction due to habitat loss. The IUCN explained further,
Dendrocitta bayleyi is endemic to the Andaman archipelago, India, where it is usually found in pairs or parties of up to 20 birds, or in mixed flocks in tall trees in dense broadleaved evergreen forest. It is uncommon to locally fairly common and while habitat on the Andamans remains relatively intact it is probably secure. However, indications that an increase in human populations and habitat loss is occurring in the archipelago suggest that within the small range of this species natural habitats might rapidly shrink and become fragmented.
It is unfortunate that one of the corvidae family is nearing extinction due to loss of habitat. Can there be no uninhabited places on this Earth? Can we not leave room for the other species?
(BirdLife International 2008. Dendrocitta bayleyi. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.2. . Downloaded on 02 August 2010.)
The beauty of the internet… I love the jackdaw and I couldn’t describe it better than the wonderful editors who contributed to the Wikipedia entry…so I will share that with you…it is well worth the read…
The Jackdaw (Corvus monedula), sometimes known as the Eurasian Jackdaw, European Jackdaw, Western Jackdaw, or formerly simply the daw, is a dark-plumaged passerine bird in the crow family. It is found across Europe, western Asia and North Africa, and four subspecies are recognised. At 34–39 cm in length, it is one of the smallest species in Corvus, the genus of crows and ravens. It is a black-plumaged bird with grey nape and distinctive white irises. It is an omnivorous and opportunistic feeder, and eats a wide variety of plant material and invertebrates, as well as food waste from urban areas. The Jackdaw has benefited from clearing of forested areas and is found in farmland and urban areas, as well as open wooded areas and coastal cliffs.
The Jackdaw was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus in his 18th century work, Systema Naturae, and it still bears its original name of Corvus monedula. The species name monedula is Latin for jackdaw.
The common name jackdaw first appears in the 16th century, and is a compound of the forename Jack used in animal names to signify a small form (e.g. jack-snipe) and the native English word daw. Formerly jackdaws were simply called daws. Claims that the metallic chyak call is the origin of the jack part of the common name are not supported by the Oxford English Dictionary. Daw, first attested in the 15th century, is conjectured by the Oxford English Dictionary to be derived from an unattested Old English *dawe, citing cognates in Old High German tāha, Middle High German tāhe, tāchele, and modern German Dahle, Dohle, and dialectal Tach, Dähi, Däche, Dacha. The original Old English word cēo (pronounced with initial ch) gave modern English chough, which now refers to corvids of the genus Pyrrhocorax; Chaucer sometimes used this word, as did Shakespeare in Hamlet although there has been debate about which species he was referring to.
English dialect names are numerous. Scottish and north England dialect has had ka or kae since the 14th century. The midlands form of this was co or coo. Caddow is potentially a compound of ka and dow, a variant of daw. Other dialect or obsolete names include caddesse, cawdaw, caddy, chauk, college-bird (from dialectal college “cathedral”), jackerdaw, jacko, ka-wattie, chimney-sweep bird, from their nesting propensities, and sea-crow, from their frequenting coasts. It was also frequently known quasi-nominally as Jack.
An archaic collective noun for a group of jackdaws is a “clattering.” Another term used is “train,” however, in practice, most people use the more generic term “flock.” (NOTE ADDED: Per a reader, Andrew, (see comments below) a “Gang” or a “Band” could also work for a collective noun for Jackdaws.
In Bushy Park, London, England
There are four recognised subspecies. All European subspecies intergrade where their populations meet. C. m. monedula integrates into C. m. soemmerringii with the transition zone running from Finland south across the Baltic, east Poland to Romania and Croatia.
C. m. monedula (Linnaeus, 1758), the nominate subspecies, breeds in south-east Norway, southern Sweden and northern and eastern Denmark, with occasional wintering birds in England and France. It has a pale nape and side of the neck, dark throat, and a light grey partial collar of variable extent.
C. m. spermologus (Vieillot, 1817) occurs in western and central Europe, and winters in the Canary Islands and Corsica. It is darker in colour and lacks the whitish border at the base of the grey collar.
C. m. soemmerringii (Fischer, 1811) is found in north-eastern Europe, and north and central Asia, from the former Soviet Union to Lake Baikal and north-west Mongolia and south to Turkey, Israel and the eastern Himalayas. It winters in Iran and northwestern India (Kashmir). It is distinguished by its paler nape and side of the neck creating a contrasting black crown, and lighter grey partial collar.
C. m. cirtensis (Rothschild and Hartert, 1912) is found in Morocco and Algeria in North Africa. The plumage is duller and more uniform dark grey, with the paler nape less distinct.
Measuring 34–39 cm (14–15 in), the jackdaw is the second smallest species in the genus Corvus. Most of the plumage is a shiny black, with a purple or blue sheen on the crown, forehead and secondaries, and a green-blue sheen on the throat, primaries, and tail. The cheeks, nape and neck are light grey to greyish-silver, and the underparts a slate-grey. The bill and legs are black. The iris of adults is greyish- or silvery white. The iris of juvenile jackdaws is light blue, then brownish, before whitening around a year of age.
In flight, jackdaws are separable from other corvids by their smaller size, faster and deeper wingbeats and proportionately narrower and less fingered wings. They also have a shorter, thicker neck, a much shorter bill and frequently fly in tighter flocks. The underwing is uniformly grey, unlike choughs.
On the ground, jackdaws strut about briskly and have an upright posture.
Sexes and ages are alike.
Recently, in at least one area of Wales, jackdaws have been seen with white wings, mirroring the plumage of its relative, the magpie, almost perfectly from a distance. They have been seen following magpies, possibly meaning that they have evolved this colour to raid magpie nests without being mobbed or caught.
Jackdaws are voluble birds. The call, frequently given in flight, is a metallic and somewhat squeaky, “chyak-chyak” or “kak-kak”. Perched birds often chatter together, and before settling for the night large roosting flocks make a cackling noise. Jackdaws also have a hoarse, drawn-out alarm-call.
Distribution and habitat
Jackdaws are resident over a large area stretching from north-west Africa through virtually all of Europe, including the British Isles and southern Scandinavia, westwards through central Asia to the eastern Himalayas and Lake Baikal. They are resident throughout Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and north-west India. The species has a large range, with an estimated global extent of between 1,000,000 and 10,000,000 km². It has a large global population, with an estimated 10 to 29 million individuals in Europe.
Jackdaws are mostly resident, but the northern and eastern populations are more migratory. Their range expands northwards into Russia to Siberia during summer, and retracts in winter. They are winter vagrants to Lebanon, first recorded there in 1962. In Syria they are winter vagrants and rare residents with some confirmed breeding. The soemmerringii race occurs in south-central Siberia and extreme northwest China and is accidental to Hokkaido, Japan.
A small number of Jackdaws reached the northwest of North America in the 1980s, presumedly ship-assisted, and have been found from Atlantic Canada to Pennsylvania. They have also occurred as vagrants in Canada, the Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Iceland, Mauritania and Saint Pierre and Miquelon. Jackdaws are regionally extinct in Malta and Tunisia. The Jackdaw is reported to have once occurred in Egypt.
They inhabit wooded steppes, pasture and cultivated land, coastal cliffs and villages and towns. They thrive as forested areas are cleared and converted to fields and open areas.
Jackdaws are highly gregarious and are generally seen in small to large flocks, though males and females pair-bond for life and pairs stay together within flocks. Flock sizes increase in autumn and large flocks group together at dusk for communal roosting. They become sexually mature in the first breeding season, and there is little evidence for divorce or extra pair coupling, even after multiple instances of reproductive failure.
Jackdaws frequently congregate with Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix), and during migration often accompany Rooks (C. frugilegus).
Like magpies, jackdaws are known to steal shiny objects such as jewellery to hoard in nests. John Gay in his Beggar’s Opera notes that “A covetous fellow, like a jackdaw, steals what he was never made to enjoy, for the sake of hiding it” and in Tobias Smollett’s The Expedition of Humphry Clinker a scathing character assassination by Mr. Bramble runs “He is ungracious as a hog, greedy as a vulture, and thievish as a jackdaw.” Al Stewart’s song, “Midas Shadow,” contains the line, “Conquistador in search of gold for all the jackdaw reasons.”
The jackdaw forages in open areas and on the ground, but does take some food in trees. Garbage tips, bins, urban streets and gardens are also visited, more often early in the morning when there are fewer people about. Jackdaws employ various feeding methods, such as jumping, pecking, clod-turning and scattering, probing the soil, and rarely digging. Flies around cow pats are caught by jumping from the ground or at times by dropping vertically from a few metres above onto the cow pat. Earthworms are not usually extracted from the ground by jackdaws but are eaten from freshly ploughed soil.
In terms of animal food, jackdaws tend to feed upon small invertebrates found above ground between 2 and 18 mm in length, including imagines, larvae and pupae of Curculionidae, Coleoptera, Diptera and Lepidoptera. Snails, spiders and some other insects also make up part of their animal diet. The jackdaw will also eat small rodents, eggs, chicks. Jackdaws will feed on carrion, such as roadkill. The vegetable diet of jackdaws consists of farm grains (barley, wheat and oats), seeds of weeds, elderberries, acorns and various cultivated fruits.
Jackdaws practice active food sharing, where the initiative for the transfer lies with the donor, with a number of individuals, regardless of sex and kinship. They also share more of a preferred food than a less preferred food.
In Poland in winter
Jackdaws usually nest in colonies with monogamous pairs collaborating to locate a nest site which they then defend from other pairs and predators most of the year.\
Jackdaws nest in cavities of trees, cliffs or ruined, and sometimes inhabited, buildings, often in chimneys, and even in dense conifers. They are famous for using church steeples for nesting, a fact reported in verse by 18th century English poet William Cowper
A great frequenter of the church, Where, bishoplike, he finds a perch, And dormitory too.
Nests are usually constructed by a mated pair blocking up the crevice by dropping sticks into it; the nest is then built atop the platform formed. This behaviour has led to blocked chimneys and even nests, with the jackdaw present, crashing down into fireplaces. Nest platforms can attain great size—John Mason Neale notes that a “Clerk was allowed by the Churchwarden to have for his own use all that the caddows had brought into the Tower: and he took home, at one time, two cart-loads of good firewood, besides a great quantity of rubbish which he threw away.”
Gilbert White, in his popular book The Natural History of Selborne, notes that jackdaws used to nest in crevices beneath the lintels of Stonehenge, and describes a curious example of jackdaws using rabbit burrows for nest sites.
Nests are lined with hair, rags, bark, soil, and many other materials. Jackdaws nest in colonies and often close to rooks. Paler than those of other corvids, the eggs are smooth, glossy pale blue speckled with dark brown, measuring approximately 36 x 26 mm. Clutches of normally 4-5 eggs, are incubated by the female for 17–18 days and fledge after 28–35 days, when they are fed by both parents.
Jackdaws hatch asynchronously and incubation begins before clutch completion, which often leads to the death of the last-hatched young. The young which die in the nest do so quickly which minimises parental investment, and hence the brood size comes to fit the available food supply. Infant jackdaws are altricial and thus are completely dependent on being fed by their parents until they fledge.
The jackdaw is a highly sociable species outside of the breeding season, occurring in flocks that can contain hundreds of birds.
Konrad Lorenz studied the complex social interactions that occur in groups of jackdaws and published his detailed observations of their social behaviour in his book King Solomon’s Ring. To study jackdaws, Lorenz put coloured rings on the legs of the jackdaws that lived around his house in Altenberg, Austria for identification, and he caged them in the winter because of their annual migration away from Austria. His book describes his observations on jackdaws’ hierarchical group structure, in which the higher-ranking birds are dominant over lower ranked birds. The book also records his observations on jackdaws’ strong male–female bonding; he noted that each bird of a pair both have the same rank in the hierarchy.
Every barnyard has a pecking order, as every farmer knows. Jackdaws, like chickens, establish a hierarchy, and the position of the individual jackdaw determines all pecking rights. Who may peck whom? No jackdaw may peck another who ranks higher in the order. This is known in zoology as a “linear or straight-line hierarchy”. A high-ranking jackdaw may peck those of lower rank, and there is always that lowly jackdaw who is pecked by all, and can peck no one in return.
Jackdaws mate for life, and like most birds who follow this custom become engaged early in life, long before sexual maturity. First the young males of a new brood struggle among themselves to decide their individual status, and then pairing with females begins. The jackdaw female promptly upon pairing assumes the same social position of her male. His rights and restraints become her rights and restraints.
Should a female not secure a mate, then it becomes a sad sort of story. She remains at the tail of all social things in a mournful, unclassified spot. She is last to the food and last to the shelter. She is pecked by the lowliest, snubbed by the least. Nor are there any lesser jackdaws on whom she can vent her frustration. As Lorenz related, it was one of these lowliest females that gave him much insight into jackdaw social behaviour. When a strong male returned to the flock, absent during the time of dominance struggles and male-female pairings, he quickly became the number one dominant male. He was forced to choose one of two unmated females for his mate. Instantly his new mate rocketed up the jackdaw social ladder and was able to peck others as much as she wanted, and she did. It took her a year to settle down. According to Lorenz the most significant factor of social behaviour was the immediate and intuitive grasp of the new hierarchy by each and every jackdaw. From the hour of her ascendancy, every jackdaw by oldest instinct knew his new place, and hers. She was “number one”.
Jackdaws have been observed sharing food and objects. The active giving of food is rare in primates, and in birds is found mainly in the context of parental care and courtship. Jackdaws show much higher levels of active giving than documented for chimpanzees. The function of this behaviour is not fully understood, although it has been found to be compatible with hypotheses of mutualism, reciprocity and harassment avoidance.
Occasionally the flock makes “mercy killings” during which a sick or injured bird is mobbed until it is killed.
Cultural depictions and folklore
Ancient Greek authors tell how a jackdaw, being a social creature, may be caught with a dish of oil which it falls into while looking at its own reflection. The Roman poet Ovid also saw them as a harbinger of rain (Amores 2,6, 34). In Greek legend, a princess Arne was bribed with gold by King Minos of Crete, and was punished for her avarice by being transformed into an equally avaricious jackdaw, who still seeks shiny things. In Aesop’s Fables, the jackdaw embodies stupidity in one tale, by starving while waiting for figs on a fig tree to ripen, and vanity in another – the daw sought to become king of the birds with borrowed feathers, but was shamed when they fell off. Pliny notes how the Thessalians, Illyrians and Lemnians cherished jackdaws for destroying grasshoppers’ eggs. The Veneti are fabled to have bribed the jackdaws to spare their crops. Another ancient Greek and Roman adage runs, “The swans will sing when the jackdaws are silent,” meaning that educated or wise people will speak after the foolish become quiet.
In some cultures, a jackdaw on the roof is said to predict a new arrival; alternatively, a jackdaw settling on the roof of a house or flying down a chimney is an omen of death and coming across one is considered a bad omen. The 12th century historian William of Malmesbury records the story of a woman who upon hearing a jackdaw chattering “more loudly than usual,” grew pale and became fearful of suffering a “dreadful calamity”, and that “while yet speaking, the messenger of her misfortunes arrived.”
Trzy Kawki coat of arms
The Ingoldsby Legends (1837) contains a poem named The Jackdaw of Rheims, which is about a jackdaw who steals a cardinal’s ring and is made a saint. A jackdaw standing on the vanes of a cathedral tower is meant to foretell rain. Czech superstition formerly held that if jackdaws are seen quarrelling, war will follow, and that jackdaws will not build nests at Sázava having been banished by Saint Procopius.
In his 1979 work The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Milan Kundera notes that Franz Kafka’s father Hermann had a sign in front of his shop with a jackdaw painted next to his name, since kavka means jackdaw in Czech.
The Jackdaw features on the Ukrainian town of Halych’s coat of arms, the town’s name allegedly derived from the East Slavic word for the bird. Three Jackdaws are featured on the Trzy Kawki coat of arms, used by several szlachta (noble) families under the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It is the symbolic bird of Southwest Finland.
The sentence “Jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz” is a commonly used example of a pangram, (i.e. a sentence that contains all 26 letters of the English alphabet), while the sentence itself is only 31 letters long.
The University of Cambridge’s online administrative database is officially called ‘Jackdaw’ and usage of its ‘Email Address Look-Up’ site is frequently referred to as a ‘Jackdaw Search’.
The Red-billed Chough is a popular bird in the corvidae family.
The Red-billed Chough or Chough (pronounced chuff), Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, is a bird in the crow family; it is one of only two species in the genus Pyrrhocorax. Its eight subspecies breed on mountains and coastal cliffs from Ireland and Great Britain east through southern Europe and North Africa to Central Asia, India and China.
This bird has glossy black plumage, a long curved red bill, red legs, and a loud, ringing call. It has a buoyant acrobatic flight with widely spread primaries. The Red-billed Chough pairs for life and displays fidelity to its breeding site, which is usually a cave or crevice in a cliff face. It builds a wool-lined stick nest and lays three eggs. It feeds, often in flocks, on short grazed grassland, taking mainly invertebrate prey.
Although it is subject to predation and parasitism, the main threat to this species is changes in agricultural practices, which have led to population decline and range fragmentation in Europe; however, it is not threatened globally. The Red-billed Chough, which derived its common name from the Jackdaw, was formerly associated with fire-raising, and has links with Saint Thomas Becket and the county of Cornwall. The Red-billed Chough has been depicted on postage stamps of a few countries, including the Isle of Man, with four different stamps, and The Gambia where the bird does not occur.