Omnivorous Birds

sometimes, nest, france, winter, especially, themselves, spring, species, trees and rooks

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The rook is a native of most of the temperate regions of Europe, but is not found much farther north than the south of Sweden, where it breeds, but from which it is driven by the severity of winter. In Russia, and the west of Siberia, it is far from rare, emigrating early in March to the environs of Woronetz, and mingling with the com mon crows. In England, they are stationary ; hut in France, Silesia, and many other countries, most of them are birds of passage. In France, they are the forerunners of winter, whereas in Siberia they announce the summer. Their flights are sometimes so dense as to darken the air, being frequently joined, not only by the common crow and the jackdaw, but also by troops of starlings. Every spring they resort to breed on the same trees, preferring the loftier branches, and building sometimes ten or nests, which rise above one another on the same tree, whilst a great many trees thus furnished occur in the same forest, or rather in the same district. They seek not re tirement and solitude, but rather settle near our dwellings. When a pair are employed in constructing the nest, one remains to guard it, while the other is procuring the suitable materials; for otherwise the structure would, it is alleged, be instantly pillaged by the other rooks which have fixed on the same tree, each carrying off a twig to its own dwelling. Rookeries are sometimes the scene of violent contests between the old and the new inhabitants, whether the Intruders be of the same or of different species. A pair which had in vain attempted to establish themselves in a rookery at no great distance from the Ex change of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, having been compelled to abandon their purpose, took refuge on the spire of that building; and, though constantly interrupted by others of their own species, succeeded in completing their nest on the top of the vane, and reared their young, apparently regardless of the noise of the people underneath. The nest, and its inhabitants, were, in course, turned round by every change of the wind ; and yet the parents persevered in maintaining the same station for ten years, when the spire was taken down. As soon as rooks have finished their nest, and before they lay, the males begin to feed the fe males, which receive their bounty with a fondling tremu lous voice, fluttering wings, and all the little blandishments that are expected by the young, while in a helpless state. This gallant deportment of the males is continued through the whole season of incubation. The female lays four or five eggs, which are smaller than those of the raven, but marked with broader spots, especially at the large end. After the young have taken wing, there is a general de sertion of the nest trees, but the families return to them again in October to roost, and to repair their dwellings. On the approach of winter, however, they usually seek some more sheltered situation at night, but generally as semble first in the usual place, and then fly off together. Their autumnal exercises of departing on their foraging excursions in the morning, and returning in the evening, are familiar to ordinary observation, and have been well described by White and others. Though the forest may be said to be their winter habitation, they generally visit their nurseries every day, preserving the idea of a family, for which they begin to make provision early in spring, the business of nidification being usually accomplished in the month of March.

The rook has but two or three notes, and makes no great figure in a solo ; but when he performs in concert, which is his chief delight, these notes, though rough in themselves, being intermixed with those of the multitude, have, as it were, their ragged edges worn off, and be come harmonious, especially when softened in the distant air. So marked is their dread of a fowling-piece, that the country people allege they even smell gunpowder; but if the gun be carefully concealed from their view, a person with his pockets full of powder, may approach very near them. Among the favourite articles of their food is the of the chafer, or dorbeetle, which, if allowed to mul tiply unchecked, would lay waste whole meadows and corn fields. It must not be dissembled, however, that rooks themselves are sometimes very injurious to new sown wheat, just when it begins to germinate. The severity of

winter, Nvhen accompanied by a heavy fall of snow, some times drives them down to the sea shore, when they are observed to feed on small shell-fish, particularly the common periwinkle. Having raised these last into the air, to about the height of fifty feet, they let them fall among stones, stooping instantly after their prey. If the shell is unbroken, they lift it again and again ; and when the wind happens to carry it out of the perpendicular di rection, they toil much and gain little. Frauds in the mode of procuring their livelihood, as well as in that of building their nests, are sometimes attempted among them, but which, when discovered, meet with instant and condign punishment. Indeed, we can scarcely doubt that these sagacious birds have ideas of property, unknown'to many of the inferior animals, as each pair, year after year, assert their claim to the same nest ; and an attempt to in vade them, on the part of others, would, as often happens, be punished, not merely by the aggrieved individuals, but by the combined efforts of the society, which clearly proves that they consider it as an offence against the com munity. When tamed they evince both confidence and attachment.

The young of this species are, by some, reckoned good for the table, but those habituated to better fare will pro bably esteem them somewhat coarse.

C. monedula, Lin. &c. Jackdaw, or Daw, Kae of the Scots. Dusky, back of the head hoary, wings and tail black.

This species inhabits many of the temperate parts of Europe, occurs as far north as Sondmor, and is sometimes seen in the Faroe Isles. From Smoland and East Goth land it migrates as soon as harvest ends, and returns in the spring, accompanied by the starlings. It winters about Upsal, and passes the night in large flocks, in ruined towers, especially those of the old town. It is common all over Russia and Westerii Siberia. In the south of Russia and in Great Britain it is stationary throughout the year, but in France. some parts of Germany, &c. it is at least partially migratory, though a number of them con tinue in these countries during summer. Such of them as migrate form themselves into large bodies, like the rooks and hooded crows, whose phalanxes they sometimes join. continually chattering as they fly. Yet they observe not the same periods in France and in Germany; for they leave the latter in autumn, and appear not again till the spring, after having wintered in France. In general they frequent old towers. ruined buildings, and high cliffs, but they also occasionally breed in the holes, or even on the branches of trees, especially if in the neighbourhood of a rookery. In some parts of Hampshire, owing probably to the want of towers and steeples, they frequently build in the burrows of a rabbit-warren, and in the Isle of Ely, from a similar cause, they take up their abode in chim neys. Their nest is made of sticks, and lined with wool, and other soft materials; and the eggs are generally five or six, smaller and paler than those of the crows, of a bluish or greenish ground, spotted with black or brown. After the young are hatched. the female watches, feeds, and rears them, with an affection which the male seems ease'- to share. Some authors affirm that they have two broods in the year; but this, we have reason to believe, is by no means uniformly the case. During the season of courtship they prattle incessantly, woo each other's society, and even kiss. Even in captivity they refrain not from these marks of tender attachment. Many pairs usually nestle in the same neighbourhood. They feed principally on worms and the larvie of insects, and are very fond of cherries. Their voice is shriller than that of the rook or crow, and appears to be capable of different in flexions. They are easily tamed, and seem so fond of domestication as seldom to attempt their escape. They may be fed on insects, fruit, grain, and even small pieces of "meat. With no great difficulty they may be taught to articulate several words; but they are mischievous and tricky, and will secrete not only portions of their food, but pieces of money, jewels, &c.

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