Posted by: Ross Gardner | December 23, 2020


Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)

I have long been a fan of the crows, such canny and resourceful birds as the are. The jackdaw is no exception. I have enjoyed many a close encounter with this small and rather smartly adorned member of the clan, often involving visitors to the garden with a keener than usual interest in our alfresco dining habitats or nothing more than a generally inquisitive and somewhat mischievous curiosity in whatever we happen to be up to.

Much has been said about their intellectual qualities, as indeed there has about many species of crow. Konrad Lorenz, for example, sought an insight into the communication among his own free-flying flock of these most loquacious of birds, translating many of the numerous kiarrs and kraws that comprise their rich and varied ‘vocabulary’. It is often the case that a bird with a particularly developed syrinx (the organ that makes it possible for birds to produce their songs and calls) are those that can deliver the most complex and intricate songs. Crows however, buck that trend, having as they do this highly developed organ, but very little in terms of melodious song. It is something perhaps with crows that is put more towards the great array of communicative sounds that many of them possess, such as can easily be observed such birds as jackdaw, rook or raven.

It is my own increasingly crepuscular habits of late that bring the jackdaw to the pages of this blog. I have been enjoying many a dusk visit to my favoured haunts, such as is necessitated by the shortened winter days and correspondingly limited opportunities around work. It is this that has led me to the discovery of a jackdaw flock that comes together to settle among an expanse of dense scrub. With the light fading a couple of hundred birds gather for their wonderful preliminary winter roosting ritual. As one, the flock swoops and banks over the treetops, tricking the watcher into thinking that they’re about to descend before sweeping upwards into the sky. A turn this way and they almost disappear with the thin line of the wings angling straight ahead nearly lost in the grainy light; a turn that way and the full silhouette of the wings looking blacker than ever; all the time chattering and chuckling to each other as they perform their murmuration. It is not quite the 30-40,000 birds that can quite literally fill the air over the Norfolk Broads (click here for a short video that can only realistically provide an small inkling of such an extraordinay spectacle), but it is nevertheless a small thing of beauty and wonder.

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