I’m currently reading the third volume of the Ladybird Book of British Birds and their nests from the 1950s.
Times have changed:
This is another bird you must know very well, because there are rookeries even in the largest towns.
That’s no longer true. As Rooks have been shot by landowners, trees and hedgerows destroyed and land built upon for housing, retail and industrial uses, their population has declined and so has their place in public consciousness. The majority of people in the UK couldn’t identify a Rook if they saw one. There used to be a large Rookery in the centre of my town in Devon. They were all shot by locals. People want wildlife and nature, just not where they live.
You can readily tell a Rook from a Crow by the whitish patch, bare of feathers, at the base of the bill, whereas the Crow has an all-black face.
That’s still one of the best ways of telling them apart. Here it is, clearly visible in flight:
Rooks live in colonies and always nest in tall trees, using the same nests year after year, so there is no truth in the saying “that when Rooks build high it is going to be a fine summer”. They are friendly, conversational birds, and young rooks are easily tamed.
Rooks have ancestral homes to which they return. They have a culture and communication, leading to ‘intelligent’ foraging behaviour.
Rooks eat a great many insects, and also a lot of corn and other farm produce, so their numbers have to be kept down by shooting.
The Government has General Licenses which have been a licence for landowners to do what they want with Rooks on their land. Despite recent changes, a landowner can still shoot Rooks but they have to prove they’re growing crops which would be impacted by them. Under general licences, millions of birds are killed in the UK every year without any real oversight or monitoring. These are mostly Wood Pigeons, and various crow species. Rooks are one of the common victims.
We’re in a wildlife and nature crisis. It’s time we stopped the casual killing and indiscriminate slaughter and learned to love Rooks again.