Wednesday, February 5, 2020


There are people who don't like jackdaws, sometimes because of deep-rooted superstitions about bad luck that are attached to these birds. Maybe, too, because of that beady eyed-stare which can make people a little uneasy. These are birds that seem to like making eye-contact.

But, seen in the right light (and doesn't that apply to almost anything?!), their undertaker-black plumage can be rather beautiful, shot through with blue and purple iridescence when the sun catches it at the right angle.

They do seem to enjoy being around people, no doubt because we humans provide feeding opportunities from discarded food, and nest sites in our buildings. This can make them a nuisance if they nest in chimney pots, when they drop sticks down the chimney until it's blocked. 

We once had a pair that tried to nest on the flat roof above our front door and sometimes dropped sticks on people going in and out.

They are very common birds around the little market town in County Durham where I live, where they mostly feed in the grassy areas beside footpaths and public open spaces .....

.... and often take to the air from the tree tops in communal flights, where they seem to delight in riding the wind on blustery days in late winter.

Occasionally these sociable birds can congregate in very large flocks, sometimes of a couple of hundred, when the sound of so many metallic 'chack! chack!' calls immediately turns heads skywards of those earthbound below.

Man-made cavities are often ideal nest sites for jackdaws and several pairs nest on the ruins of Egglestone Abbey in Teesdale.

The sockets that once supported roof beams of the abbey chapel are wonderfully secure jackdaw nest boxes, where they stuff them with sticks and line the nest with sheep wool from flocks that are just a field away. It's hard to imagine a more comfortable nesting site, sheltered from cold north-easterly winds in the early nesting season and with a high vantage point for an unbroken view of the surrounding countryside. 

Jackdaws are a species that mate for life, so once they have paired up they are ready to begin a new breeding season with minimal courtship, apart from some wing and tail-feather trembling on the part of the female. This pair had already occupied their nest site by mid-January.