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The Rook is about the size of the Carrion Crow, but its plumage is
Besides insects, the Rooks
These birds are gregarious, being sometimes seen in flocks so great
As soon as the Rooks have finished their nests, and before they lay,
the cock birds begin to feed the hens. These receive the bounty of their mates with a fondling, tremulous voice, and futtering wings, and with all the little blandishments that are expressed by the young while in a helpless state. This gallant deportment of the males is continued through the whole season of incubation.
New-comers are often severely beaten by the old inhabitants, (who are not fond of intrusions from other societies,) and are even frequently driven quite away. Of this an instance occurred near Newcastle, in the year 1783. A pair of Rooks, after an unsuccessful attempt to establish themselves in a rookery at no great distance from the Exchange, were compelled to abandon the attempt, and take refuge on the spire of that building; and, though constantly interrupted by other Rooks, they built their nest on the top of the vane, and reared their young.ones undisturbed by the noise of the populace below them :-the nest and its inhabitants were of course turned about by every change of the wind. They returned and built their nest every year on the same place, till the year 1793, soon after which the spire was taken down. A small copper-plate was engraved, of the size of a watch-paper, with a representation of the top of the spire and the nest; and so much pleased were the inhabitants and other persons with it, that as many copies were sold as produced to the engraver the sum of ten pounds.
A remarkable circumstance respecting these birds occurred a few years ago at Dallam Tower, in Westmoreland, the seat of Daniel Wilson Esq. There were two groves adjoining to the park, one of which had, for many years, been the resort of a number of Herons, that regularly every year built and bred there. In the other was a large rookery. For a long time the two tribes lived peaceably together. At length, the trees of the heronry were cut down, and the young brood perished by the fall of the timber. The parent birds, not willing to be driven from the place, endeavored to effect a settlement in the rookery. The Rooks made an obstinate resistance; but, after a desperate contest, in the course of which many of the Rooks and some of the Herons lost their lives, the latter at length succeeded in obtaining possession of some of the trees, and that very spring built their nests afresh. The next season a similar conflict took place; which, like the former, was terminated by the victory of the Herons. Since this time, peace seems to have been agreed upon between them; the Rooks have relinquished part of the grove to the Herons, to which part alone they confine themselves; and the two communities appear to live together in as much harmony as they did before the dispute.
The following anecdote of this sagacious community is related by Dr. Percival, in bis Dissertations: "A large colony of Rooks had subsisted many years in a grove on the banks of the river Irwell, near Manchester. One serene evening I placed myself within the view of it, and marked with attention the various labors, pastimes, and evolu. tions of this crowded society. The idle members amused themselves with chasing each other through endless mazes; and, in their flight, they made the air sound with an infinitude of discordant noises. In the midst of these playful exertions, it unfortunately happened that 0!ie Rook, by a sudden turn, struck his beak against the wing of
another. The sufferer instantly fell into the river. A general cry of distress ensued. The Birds hovered, with every expression of anxiety, over their distressed companion. Aniinated by their sympathy, and, perhaps, by the language of counsel known to themselves, he sprang into the air, and by one strong effort, reached the point of a rock which projected into the water. The joy became loud and universal; but. alas! it was soon changed into notes of lamentation ; for the poor wounded Bird, in attempting to fly towards his nest, again dropped into the river, and was drowned, amidst the moans of his whole fraternity.”
There seems to exist a wonderful antipathy between these birds and the Raven. Mr. Markwick says, that as soon as a Raven had built her nest in a tree adjoining a very numerous rookery, all the Rooks immediately left the spot, and did not return to build there afterwards. At the Bishop of Chester's rookery at Broomham, near Hastings, upon a Raven's building her nest in one of the trees, all the Rooks forsook the spot; they however returned to their baunts in the autumn, and formed their nests there the succeeding year. very difficult task to account for this antipathy. The Raven will scarcely suffer any bird to come within a quarter of a mile of its nest, being very fierce in defending it. It besides seizes the young Rooks from their nests, to feed its own offspring. This Mr. Lambert was an eye-witness to, at Mr. Seymer's at Harford, in Dorsetshire; for there was no peace in the rookery night or day, till one of the old Ravens was killed, and the nest was destroved.
Rooks begin to build in March; and, after the breeding-season is over, they forsake their nesting-trees, and for sometime roost elsewhere; but they have always been observed to return in August. In October they repair their nests.
When the first brood of Rooks are sufficiently fledged, they leave their nest-trees in the day time, and resort to some distant place in search of food; but they return regularly every evening in vast flights, to their nests; where, after flying round several times with much noise and clamor, till they are all assembled together, they take up their abode for the night.
Mr. White, in his Natural History of Selborne, speaking of the evening exercises of Rooks in the autumn, remarks, that, just before dusk, they return in long strings from the foraging of the day, and rendezvous by thousands over Selborne Down, where they wheel round, and dive in a playful manner in the air, exerting their voices, wbich being softened by the distance, become a pleasing murmur, not unlike the cry of a pack of Hounds in deep echoing woods. When this ceremony is over, with the last gleam of light they retire to the deep beech-woods of Tisted and Kepley. We remember (says Mr. White) a little girl, who, as she was going to berl, used to remark, on such an occurrence, in the true spirit of physico-theology, that the Rooks were saying their prayers; and yet this child was much too young to be aware that the Scriptures have asserted of the Deity-that He feedeth the Ravens, who call upon him."
In the parts of Hampshire adjacent to the New Forest, when the Rook has reared his progeny, and has carried off such of them as have escaped the arts of men and boys, he retires every evening at a late hour, during the autumn and winter months, to the closest coverts of the forest, after having spent the day in the open fields and enclosures, in quest of food.
Among all the sounds of animal nature, few are more grateful than the cawing of Rooks. The Rook has but two or three notes, and wben he attempts a solo we cannot praise his song; but when he performs in concert, which is his chief delight, these notes, although rough in themselves, being intermixed with those of the multitude, have, as it were, all their rough edges worn off, and become harmonious, especially when softened in the air, where the bird chiefly performs. We have this music in perfection, when the whole colony is raised by the discharge of a gun.
Dr. Darwin has remarked, that a consciousness of danger from mankind is much more apparent in Rooks than in most other birds. Any one who has in the least attended to them, will see that they evidently distinguish that the danger is greater when a man is armed with a gun, than when he has no weapon with him. In the spring of the year, if a person happen to walk under a rookery with a gun in his band, the inbabitants of the trees rise on their wings, and scream to the unfledged young to shrink into their nests from the sight of the enemy. The country people, observing this circumstance so uniformly to occur, assert that Rooks can smell gunpowder.
In England these birds remain during the whole year; and both in France and Silecia they migrate.
Jackdaws are common birds in England, where they remain during
the whole year; but in some
They frequent old towers
under-ground, in the Rabbitholes; they also build in the interstices between the upright and cross stones of Stonehenge, far out of the reach of the shepherd: boys, who are always idling about that place. In the Isle of Kly,
from the want of ruined edifices, they often build their nests in chimneys. In the grate below one of these nests, which had not been used for some time, a fire was lighted; the materials of the nest caught fire, and they were in such quantity, that it was with great difficulty the house could be preserved from the flames.
These birds feed principally on worms, and the grubs of insects; but I was once witness to a very singular deviation from their usual inode in this respect. I was walking with a friend in the Inner Temple garden, about the middle of May, 1802, when we observed a Jackdaw hovering, in a very unusual manner, over the Thames. A small, barrel was floating near the place, a buoy to a net that some fishermen were hauling; and we at first thought the bird was about to alight upon it. This, however, proved a mistake; for he descended to the surface of the water, and fluttered for a few seconds with his bill and feet immersed; he then rose, flew to a little distance, and again did the same; after which he made a short circuit, and alighted on a barge, about fifty yards from the garden, where he devoured a small fish. When this was done, he made a third attempt, caught another, and flew off with it in his mouth.
Jackdaws are easily tamed; and may, with a little difficulty, be taught to pronounce several words. They conceal such parts of their food as they cannot eat; and often along with it, small pieces of money or toys, frequently occasioning, for the moment, suspicions of theft in persons who are innocent. They may be fed on insects, fruit, grain, and small pieces of meat.
In Switzerland there is found a variety of Jackdaws which has a white ring round its neck. In Norway, and other cold countries, Jackdaws have been seen entirely white.
This beautiful bird is well known in our woods; it builds, in trees, an artless nest, of sticks, fibres, and twigs, in which it lays five or six eggs. Its delicate cinnamon-colored back and breast, with blue wing coverts, barred with black and white, render it one of the most elegant birds produced in this country. Its bill is black, and chin white; and, on its forehead, there is a beautiful tuft of white feathers, streaked with black, which it has the power of erecting at pleasure. .. Its voice is harsh, IA grating, and unpleasant.
When kept in a domestic state, the Jay may be rendered familiar, and it will catch and repeat a variety of sounds. One of these birds has been heard to imitate so exactly the noise made by the action of a saw, as to induce passengers to suppose that a carpenter was at work in the house.
A Jay kept by a person in the north of England, had learned at