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(Eurasian) Jackdaw

Jackdaw
Both sexes: Glossy black with grey nape and ear coverts.
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The Jackdaw is our smallest crow - smaller than a Carrion Crow or Rook, but about the same size as a Jay. Like all the crows, Jackdaws are inquisitive and intelligent birds.

Adult Jackdaws are all black apart from their grey nape, shoulders and ear-coverts and light grey (almost white) eyes. The bill and legs are black.

Close-up
Close-up

Juvenile birds have a less prominent grey nape, etc. Their eyes are a pale blue in the first year, turning to brown in the spring of their second year and eventually to light grey.

Compared with the other crows, its flight is more hurried - similar to a pigeon.

Flight Silhouettes and Comparative Sizes
Flight Silhouettes and Comparative Sizes

In flight, House Martins appear black and white, with the white rump being a key characteristic. Sand Martins appear paler, lack the white rump and have a breast band. Swallows are larger than either artin and have long tail streamers as well as the red throat. Swifts appear black and it is the slim tapering body and scythe-like wings that are key identification features.


Scientific Name Corvus monedula
Length 33 cm  (13")
Wing Span 67-74 cm  (27-30")
Weight 220-270 g  (8-9 oz)
Breeding Pairs 390000
Present All Year
Status Green

Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.

Voice

Their call is a high-pitched metallic sounding "kyow" or "tchack", after which it is named.

Call

© Jean Roché, www.sittelle.com

Feeding

The Jackdaws diet is greatly varied:

  • preying on animals, such as insects, worms and mice
  • feeding on vegetation, such as seeds, berries and fruit
  • scavenging on landfill sites or in gardens for scraps

While on holiday (1998), I noticed young Jackdaws picking dead insects off the front bumpers and registration plates of cars parked in a car park (Dolgellau, Wales). One youngster, at the rear of a car, seemed quite puzzled and tormented by the absence of dead flies!

Nesting

Jackdaws will take over old nests of larger birds or use holes in trees and buildings. The nest is made from twigs and lined with hair, rags, bark, soil, and many other materials. Jackdaws nest in colonies and often close to Rooks.

The smooth, glossy pale blue eggs are marked with blackish-brown, and approximately 36 mm by 26 mm. The female incubates the eggs by herself. After the young hatch, they are fed by both parents.

Breeding Starts Clutches Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
late April 1 4-6 17-18 28-32

Movements

British birds are mostly resident, though upland breeding birds migrate south and west to lowland regions and Ireland for the winter. Meanwhile, the wintering population is increased by immigrants from northern Europe, which arrive along the east coast in the autumn.

Conservation

Jackdaws are thriving and this is largely a result of improved breeding performance and the Jackdaw's diverse diet.