Monday, 27 September 2010

The Song of the Rook

I likes rooks. People quite often don't. And I think that quite often rooks are mistakenly called "crows", (although they are a member of the wider crow family - along with magpies, jackdaws, jays, and the chough).

But rooks are often in a group. And crows are solitary. Rooks have pale beaks, not black beaks. And they're more fond of a nice tasty leatherjacket grub than a frog or chick (I think). That's what I know of rooks anyway.

Oh... and they've got this great pouch in their beaks. When they're feeding they can cram extra stuff into this pouch like a mini-pelican sack under the lower beak. We used to think there was something wrong with the bird's beak when we first spotted one loading up in this fashion. But it's just extra carrying power for taking food back to the nest.

True - I wouldn't want to live under a rookery. A lot of droppings and a lot of cawing discussion. Also - young rooks are very demanding about being fed by parent - which makes them loud and annoying. But I expect that's what Mama Rook thinks as well.

Anyway. Rooks sing.

True, it's not what most people think of as bird song, but I'm sure it's a territorial song. Just like a robin or a blackbird. And OK maybe an acquired taste, but I am touched by a singing rook.

We have one who comes regularly to the lane. And he is known to neighbours who watch out for the star turn. He'll stand on the aerial and give forth - not loud cawing- but a softer succession of cries and mutters and chucks and clicks. Then he flies off to another nearby high spot, a tree or a telegraph pole and he repeats his performance. For all the world just as a blackbird might do. And with just as much joie de vivre - in a rookish way.

You don't believe me? Just checked in The Old Man's copy of "Crow Country" by Mark Cocker. And there the writer quotes his friend, the late Derek Goodwin, on the subject of rook operatics:

"Various soft, cawing, gurgling, rattling and crackling calls are uttered and the general effect is very much like that of a singing starling, only louder..."


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