Tuesday 18 June 2013

Know your UK crows

Most of the crows are black all over and are named after what they say (sort of).

Jackdaws. They say "chack chack", they hang around in groups, they’re small as crows go, and they're black all over with a dark grey scarf. Collective noun: Clattering.

Crows say "krar". They're black all over, and they're solitary. You sometimes see them in a small family group or a pair, but if you see a big group of crows, they're rooks. Collective noun: Murder.

Rooks say "rark". They’re black all over except their beak which is big and grey. They hang around in big groups, and at the end of the day they all go back to the same couple of trees and spend an hour arguing about who's allowed to sleep where. If you see a rook scavenging by itself it's probably a crow. Collective noun: Parliament

Ravens are big, black all over, and they say "ronk ronk ronk". The word "raven" was imported from some scandinavian language in the middle ages. We're basically calling them "ronkers" but by way of a hundreds of years old loanword. They have a very early breeding season so that mummy raven can go out and kill newborn lambs for her chicks. Collective noun: Unkindness

Choughs say "chough" to rhyme with the town of Slough. Confusingly we say it to rhyme with slough (like what snakes do with their skin). They're rare, they've got a red beak, they live in Cornwall, and they like eating leatherjackets. Collective noun: Clattering.

Magpies. They're easy to recognise, they're black and white (think piebald). They make all sorts of noises, and can be trained to speak after a fashion. I once heard a pair shouting "shark!" at each other but there weren't any sharks nearby.

Jays. They look like magpies that have been playing in their mum's makeup bag. They make a horrible screaming shriek.

Richard "corvids" B

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