Eurasian jackdaws (Corvus monedula) are pigeon sized members of the corvid family that are highly entertaining to watch. Adults are built like their close relations the crows, but have slate grey bodies with black wings and head. Their bright white eyes are incredibly magnetic, sparkling from a surrounding of black. Males and females look alike.
In some places like southern England, jackdaws outnumber all other corvid species, showing that they have adapted to a planet full of humans. They have learned to make their nests in tree holes or niches in buildings. They can be found all over Europe and upper Asia, even in Siberia. A very few make their nests in North America.
Unlike many other birds, jackdaws aren’t fussy about what they eat. They are like pigeons in that they will eat almost anything, whether it’s bugs, bird seed or a bit of bacon sandwich. They also eat carrion, like other members of the corvid family, but they do not prefer carrion if they have the choice of fresher foods, grain or an unattended picnic.
Jackdaws are about the boldest of the corvids, often freely mingling with other species like pigeons, gulls, rooks and hooded crows. They will frequent cities and towns, unlike other members of the corvid family that prefer woods, wasteland or farmer’s fields. They are also friendly with each other, often going about in family groups of four or more.
Although a group of jackdaws is commonly known as a flock, they are also known as a clattering. The latter is a more accurate description, as jackdaws are very chatty in their raucous, croaking crow-like voices. It is unknown exactly why they are so vocal although they do seem to use vocalizations to communicate with others in their family group.
Females and males pair off about February or March and make a nest. It is thought that jackdaws are monogamous, but this is not entirely known. They do take great care in raising their young. They make their nests and lay their pale blue eggs around April. The female normally lays one egg a day for four or five days. It takes about eighteen days to incubate the eggs until they hatch. Jackdaw chicks grow very fast and are ready to fly by the time they are about one month old.
Even after leaving the nest, jackdaw parents will still help to take care of the chicks for another couple of months. The chicks will eventually leave the parents to pair off, but it is thought they stay nearby the parents and socialize with them for the rest of their lives. Jackdaws have been seen congregating in large flocks or clatterings by the thousands, usually in the start of the breeding season.
“Bird Brains: The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies and Jays.” Candice Savage. Sierra Club Books; 1997.
“King Solomon’s Ring.” Konrad Lorenz. Methuen; 1952.
What Bird.com. “Eurasian Jackdaw.” http://identify.whatbird.com/obj/786/overview/Eurasian_Jackdaw.aspx
Wikipedia. “Jackdaw.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackdaw