Bird Brains

Jackdaws are stunning little birds. They are unobtrusively black, admittedly, but their superficially, easily ignorable demeanour becomes something special with a second glance. As the breeding season looms their cranial plumage takes on a strong grey hue – a pattern not unlike that described as ‘black and charcoal’ in a Karrimor walking boot! They strut (the birds that is not the boots) with a sense of acute purpose, whilst scrutinising every blade of grass and flipping over animal droppings in search of an unfortunate morsel. The relationship played out by a flock of jackdaws perusing around a flock of sheep is amongst many similar scenarios in our countryside. Occasionally one bird will launch its self onto another and a raucous scrap will ensue with the others in the group enthusiastically beating up the individual in the losing seat. Suddenly all will go back to the way it was with the group fastidiously fixing on all that wriggles with their beautiful bright blue eyes. I’m inclined to think that this must be a means of maintaining the pecking order and penance for attempting to pilfer the stronger birds crop filler!

A neighbour of ours reared a juvenile jackdaw last year that had found itself grounded and at the mercy of their pet cat. It was not uncommon for children to have pet jackdaws when I was a child, infact they make great companions. They learn to adapt very quickly and a strong bond between boy and bird can easily develop. The problem is that their reliance on humans can lead to all sorts of problems when they decide to go further afield! Whilst such relationships today are rare, so are jackdaws in many parts of the country . The memory of walking across a meadow and having the animal that I reared by hand swoop down and land on my shoulder whilst coughing in my ear for a treat that it might pluck delicately from my lips is enough to send a reminiscent shiver of joy though my spine.

by Richard

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