The Sound of Autumn- or something more Sinister?

Sitting on the sofa in the living room, the new fireplace having just been installed, imagine my surprise when I heard a soft cawing coming from inside the very walls. What was it? Was it a bird? Was it plane? No, it was not superman (try to banish the idea of a sooty Henry Cavill squashed and cramped in the small space) and yes, it was a bird. The poor chap had fallen down the chimney from his nest and into the  new fireplace. There was only one thing for it, and jumping into action with only a single sympathising thought for my father who was very proud of his new fireplace, I began to wrench at the metal plate that was trapping the bird. After a short struggle and some choice words that I won’t repeat, a small gap opened into the dark chimney. There was a pair of black legs and then suddenly, bobbing down, a small face appeared, its piercing blue eyes boring into mine.

The Jackdaw (

The Jackdaw (

The Jackdaw. To some a symbol of impending Autumn and subsequent winter, to others, a symbol of something quite sinister, with images of haunted houses and deserted graveyards flocking to mind. To my mother, a tree full of noisy Jackdaws brings back an image of a wrapped up Raymond Briggs, traipsing across a cold winter field, the sound of cawing corvids surrounding him. For those of you who remember, this was the original beginning to ‘The Snowman’. Unfortunately, this beginning was replaced by David Bowie wrapping a blue scarf around his neck, his bright blonde hair obviously replacing the need for any  light source. Not to slate David of course, but I rather preferred the noises of autumn wildlife in the fields than a rockstar walking around a slightly questionable looking loft.

Although I appreciate the Jackdaw, I do understand the conjuring of unsettling images that the bird can cause. In fact, I challenge anyone to find me a novel or film depicting some disturbing ghost story where a jackdaw or some other corvid does not rear his head. So what do we know about this bird? We know that David Bowie was deemed more suitable at Christmas time and we know they like a ghost story. But what of the actual bird? So often dismissed and ignored as one of the bullies of the bird world, scaring our prettier and more photogenic species from our bird tables. Graveyard-after-dark-21615783-2560-1793

But believe it or not, this species, the smallest amongst the corvids, is a symbol of loyalty, brains and maybe even a little romance. It is of course a well know fact by now that corvids are hugely intelligent and the jackdaw is no exception. They can learn how to solve puzzles in order to reach food and can even employ the use of tools. In fact, they even have a criminal record, after one bird was trained  by Italian thieves to steal money from cash machines (I’d like to see that mugshot). But if this is not enough to change your opinion of him, how about his loyalty? A bond formed between two jackdaws is one of the strongest in the bird world and the pairs show incredible devotion to one another. Years of unsuccessful breeding seasons can go by and a pair will remain together (aww).

So, next time you hear or see a cluster of jackdaws, making as much noise as they can, try not to think of shadows and graveyards and instead think of love, loyalty and a highly respectable IQ.

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Eleanor Daisy Upstill-Goddard
I have been a bird enthusiast since I was a child and have just completed my MSc at Newcastle University on 'Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Management.'
Eleanor Daisy Upstill-Goddard

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