EVERY WEEK THIS YEAR WE WILL HAVE NEW SUGGESTIONS FOR A DIFFERENT GROUP OF BIRDS TO LOOK FOR TO HELP DEVELOP YOUR #MY200BIRDYEAR LIST
This week, it is Crows
There are six species of ‘black’ crow in the UK: Carrion Crow and Hooded Crow, Rook, Raven, Jackdaw and Chough. Yes, Hooded Crow and Jackdaw have grey bits, and Chough has red bits, but you get the idea… Carrion Crow and Hooded Crow have only recently been split into separate species, having previously been regarded as subspecies of Corvus corone. There is also a school of thought that proposes that rather than being separate species or subspecies, the two crows are a actually geographically stable colour morphs. But that is another story for another place…
The default black crow for most of the country. This is the mid-sized crow 'cawing' on a roof, aerial or tree near you. Black all over with a decent sized black bill and a square tail. Judge all other crows against this standard.
Just about identical in every way to the Carrion Crow, with the important exception of its grey body (they have black heads and breasts, black wings and tails), the Hooded Crow occurs in Ireland and Scotland west of the Great Glen Fault. Hybrid birds of all sorts of plumage pattersn occur around the fault , including the Inverness area and the Moray firth coast, east of the city.
Another abundant and very widespread mid-sized crow, the Rook is the same size as the ‘crows’ and may take a second glance to separate. Look for the pale base to the peg-shaped bill, the high forehead, the shaggy ‘trousers’ and the rounded tail in flight. Rooks are the crows which nest colonially in, of course, rookeries, found high in trees.
In some ways like a massive version of a Carrion Crow, the Raven is a huge corvid, easily the size of a Buzzard. Structurally, it is also different from other cros, having a massive, deep bill, shaggy throat feathers and a long wedge-shaped tail. The long wings taper much more than other crows; Ravens are masterful fliers, at distance looking almost cross-shaped in flight. They are shyer than other crows and are working their way eastwards by the year. The voice consists a range of rough or quite ‘fruity’ ‘kronks’, often doubled.
The baby among our common crows, the Jackdaw is about the size of a Woodpigeon, and has a correspondingly short bill. Easily recognised by size, as well as its grey hindcrown and neck (and body compared to the crown and wings/tail), as well as the pale eye. Characteristic ‘jack’ calls. Jackdaws often hang out with Rooks.
This is a scarce bird, largely found around the Welsh coast and Islay in the Inner Hebrides. These are birds of cliff country with short-cropped feeding grounds, where they probe for invertebrates with they fine, down-curved red bills. Very broad-winged with deeply ‘fingered’ primaries, Choughs rival Ravens for the title of champion fliers of the corvid world. The 'chow' calls are like resonant extreme versions of the Jackdaw's 'jack'.
All photos from Alamy