Nov 16 2012

About Rooks

Published by at 7:10 am under Beyond Bounds,Crows, Ravens

When five rooks came to celebrate my blog’s anniversary last week they piqued my interest because we never see them in North America.

Rooks are Eurasian relatives of crows, found from Ireland to Japan.  At a distance they look like American crows with very long beaks but this is an illusion.  Their beaks look long because the skin on their faces is naked and matches the beak color.

Close up the skin is obvious and a bit disturbing if you’re not used to it.  When they perch with wings hunched and feathers puffed they resemble the Grim Reaper.  Actually, artists probably chose rooks as their model for the Grim Reaper and not the other way around.

Like blue jays, rooks can store food in their throat bags, then carry it elsewhere.  The throat becomes distended as you can see briefly in the video above.

Rooks are more social than their American relatives.  They nest communally in the treetops in collections called rookeries.  In North America we have no rooks but our herons use the same nesting technique so we call their groupings heron rookeries.

Like crows, rooks are curious and really smart but this can make them annoying.  To a rook, it’s normal to make holes to hide food but this is a liability if you keep one indoors.  Fortunately, few people do.

Early this year I enjoyed reading Corvus: A Life With Birds by Esther Woolfson in which she tells the story of her rook named Chicken, a very smart and engaging bird, but I agree with the Daily Mail which said, “Yet perhaps the best measure of Woolfson’s candidacy for sainthood is the permission she has given Chicken to dismantle the plaster and lath on her hallway wall so that the rook has its own food storage space.”

…You see what I mean…?

Smart… but not good pets.

(video by Goldfinch Garden on YouTube)

One response so far

One Response to “About Rooks”

  1. Libby Strizzion 16 Nov 2012 at 9:48 am

    (not related to your rook story) — just wanted to tell you and all that I loved the PBS DUCKumentary show you told us about — those little cuties jumping 70 feet in the air and floating down to land safely in soft pile of leaves. Everyone, if you find it again, be sure to see it.

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