Today we're taking a little breather from all the crafting that I've been doing recently to enjoy a closer look at one of the species of birds that visits my garden. During the Covid-19 lockdown, we've been watching our garden birds more and have been recording our sightings for the British Trust for Ornithology's Garden Birdwatch. This project gets you to record the birds in your garden each week and send the results in. They also collect data on a few other creatures including mammals, some insects and butterflies. I've also been recording my data on this blog - you can find those over here. I hope to do a few more little insights into the animals in my gardens so look out for more Species Spotlight posts!
Common name: Rook
Scientific name: Corvus frugilegus (Corvus means "raven" and frugilegus means "food gathering" - so when this bird was named, they classed it as a raven that gathered food which it certainly does in my garden!)
Approximate Size: 46cm
Weight: 460 - 520g
Where To Find Them: Farmland (in particular mixed farmland), grasslands, parks, wooded suburbs
Nesting habits: In a rookery (i.e. a colony) in tall trees, often re-uses a nest from previous year, lays about 4 - 5 eggs a year
Food: Omnivore (they'll eat pretty much everything on offer in my garden feeders!)
The Rook is a large, glossy, black bird. It is part of the corvid family - most of the UK corvids are easily recognisable because they are large black birds but this isn't always true. Other birds in the family include the Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), the Jackdaw (Corvus monedula), the Raven (Corvus corax), the Carrion and Hooded Crows (Corvus corone and Corvus cornix), the Magpie (Pica pica), the Jay (Garrulus glandarius) and the Starling (Sturnus vulgaris). The Rook is most commonly confused with the jackdaw, raven and crows.
Rooks are widespread and common throughout the UK with the exception of the more mountainous areas such as the Scottish Highlands. An adult Rook is most easily distinguished from the other black corvids by its pale grey beak and almost vertical forehead. Male and female Rooks are similar but juvenile Rooks have a darker coloured beak making them look similar to the Carrion Crow. In flight, the Rook's tail looks more diamond shaped compared to other corvids, although in my experience this can be subtle and hard to spot.
According to my books, Rooks tend to be more of a countryside bird and are less likely to be found in cities. They like nesting in tall trees, usually forming a noisy colony called a rookery which can compromise of just a small handful of nests to hundreds! The Rook only lays one clutch of eggs a year which are greenish blue with brown spots and markings. The female will incubate her eggs for about 2 - 3 weeks while the male provides her with food. Chicks are born blind and bald but are ready to leave the nest in around a month. Both parents help to provide for the chicks.
We have a rookery on the edge of our village. It is located in a copse of tall trees on private land. The rooks first started visiting our garden when they discovered our bird feeders. They are particularly fond of suet blocks and will happily empty a feeder of seed mix! It is largely down to the corvids that our bird feeder pole is no longer vertical! This last week we've noticed an increase in the number of rooks in our garden and we think that either we have some juveniles learning to fend for themselves or the parents have a brood of chicks to look after! Although they annoy me by emptying my feeders and knocking them to the ground, I enjoy watching these large birds. They have a great personality and I often see them squabbling amongst themselves!
We have two regular corvid visitors to our garden - the rook is one and the other is the Jackdaw which I hope to do a species spotlight on in the future.
RSPB Pocket Guide to British Birds, Second Edition, 2012 by Simon Harrap
The Complete Book of British Birds, 1992