The Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) is the smallest, most social, and the most typical community bird of all our members of the genus Corvus. In terms of size, it’s about equal to the Common Wood-Pigeon, clearly smaller than the Hooded Crow. The bird’s coloration is evenly dark grey, excluding the lighter grey neck and light eyes. Its more lightweight-appearing beak also distinguishes it from our other members of the Corvus.
Like other crows, the Jackdaw is very intelligent. The bird and its behavior have been studied extensively. A famous researcher, Konrad Lorenz, has made lots of observations about Jackdaws in particular and made deductions about their behavior in the numerous books he has published.
The Jackdaw has been found to be monogamous, making its engagement vows even before reaching maturity. A Jackdaw community is governed by well defined social relationships. In many studies, the Jackdaw has been found to possess a high level communicative skill between individual birds. The peculiar coloration of the eyes makes it possible to communicate with them as well. In some studies, it has been found that Jackdaws are able to read things, such as the direction of the gaze, from other species’ eyes, instead of the position of head as is typical in the animal kingdom. The bird has also been found to use tools, and many such skills are transferred “culturally” from one generation to the next.
In my own narrow studies - which I did not undertake on my own volition - regarding the Jackdaw’s habit of building its nest in a chimney, I have found out the following: First of all, the Jackdaw is stupid. After being fed up with having to remove the nests from my chimney every year, I set up an iron net atop one chimney. The Jackdaw couple, presumably out of habit, kept dropping twigs through the net, even without any hope of ever managing to build a nest that way. They were persistent, and the entire chimney ended up blocked with their trash, instead of just the ventilation shaft as it was earlier. I gave up and removed the net. The Jackdaw was not stupid after all.
While observing their nest building process (and removing the results of said process) in my chimneys, I found out an intelligent technique used by the Jackdaw. I had often wondered how they manage to build the nest at exactly the desired height inside the chimney. Apparently, the bird dives into the shaft holding a fresh Y-shaped twig, with the bottom of the Y facing downwards. The twig’s upper branches will wedge themselves in the shaft, making it possible for the bird to push it to any desired depth. A couple more of these, and the basis for building the rest of the nest out of miscellaneous materials is set.
In addition to size, the Jackdaw has other similarities with pigeons as well. Our own domesticated pigeon used to be a cliff dweller in the past, but as civilization advanced and more settlements emerged, it spawned the modern domesticated pigeon, as the birds eventually found themselves unable to live anywhere but in human settlements. The same fate might befall the Jackdaw.
Back in the day, the people in Finland used to think that the arrival of domesticated pigeons to a settlement marked the arrival of civilization and urbanization. The same can also be said of the Jackdaw, having been considered to be a mark of and an air to culture. Old churches in particular are favored by the Jackdaw, which is the most likely cause for the bird’s old Finnish name, “kirkhakkinen” (lit. “church hack” in Finnish).
The large group flights of the Jackdaw during evenings have been cause for admiration throughout the ages. At the end of summer, the large flocks begin flying around in formations, back and forth in peculiar patterns, naturally accompanied with an infernal ruckus. Why does the flock perform such a ritual every evening, when seeking a spot for spending the night? It has been thought to be perhaps practice for the young birds, maintaining the flock’s social structure, or even to fool predators as to the location of the intended spot.
Overall, the Jackdaw is an extremely fascinating bird. The people from Varsinais-Suomi county have probably thought the same, which is why they chose the Jackdaw as their county’s bird. In Varsinais-Suomi, the small municipality of Sauvo has even chosen the Jackdaw for their town’s seal, which is admirable in itself when it comes to the opinion of this particular “friend of the Jackdaw”, who hopes the fathers of this town will hold on to their bird in the case of a potential joining of municipalities which are taking place in Finland currently.
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- Corvus corone Carrion Crow varis
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