How clever are the Rooks in your garden?

No.:  2014-34
June 2014

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) are launching a survey to find out.

Rook by John Harding/BTO

There have been studies of intelligence in Rooks in captivity but very little has been done in the wild. Using citizen scientists in their own gardens, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) wants to find out just how intelligent Rooks are.

If you have ever watched crows or Jackdaws in your garden, you’ll know that they are clever birds. However, did you know that Rooks have been shown to be one of the most astute members of the corvid family? The BTO is running a Garden Rook Survey this year, to find out more about these fascinating birds.

Studies done with Rooks in the lab have shown that they are extremely intelligent and able to solve complex puzzles using objects and teamwork. However, apart from their social behaviour, little is known about the behaviour of Rooks in the wild, and especially in gardens.

Gardens provide the perfect opportunity to study the behaviour of Rooks as there are new problems for them to solve, such as how to feed from bird feeders. Anecdotal evidence shows that Rooks can quickly learn to how to unhook feeders in order to drop them on the ground, or how to pull up food dangling by a string with their feet. The BTO Garden Rook Survey will be building on previous studies and will be looking at a range of behaviours including feeding, social and object manipulation to try to learn more about how common these behaviours are in the wild. There might even be new discoveries! All that is needed to take part is a garden that is visited by Rooks.

Clare Simm, the Garden Rook Survey organiser said, "This is going to be a really exciting survey, learning about what Rooks do in gardens across the country. We can’t find this out without the public though! If you get Rooks in your garden, whether it’s regularly or once in a while, we need your help!’

The survey will take part between 1 July and 31 December 2014 and anyone can take part.

To find out more about the BTO Garden Rook Survey or to download the instructions on how to take part, visit www.bto.org/rooksurvey. If you have any queries, please contact the Garden Ecology team by phone 01842 750050 or email gbw [at] bto.org

Notes for Editors

  1. The Rook is one of 8 species in the corvid family native to the UK. The others are Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Magpie, Jay, Hooded Crow, Raven and Chough. You can find out more about the Garden Rook Survey at www.bto.org/rooksurvey
     
  2. The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations. www.bto.org
     
  3. The BTO Garden BirdWatch is the only nationwide survey of garden birds to run weekly throughout the year, providing important information on how birds use gardens, and how this use changes over time. Currently, some 14,500 people take part in the project. The project is funded by participants’ contributions and is the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world. For more information see www.bto.org/gbw.

Contact Details

Clare Simm
(BTO Garden Rook Survey Organiser)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: clare.simm [at] bto.org

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Media Manager)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07585 440910 (anytime)
Email: press [at] bto.org

Images are available for use alongside this News Release.
Please contact images [at] bto.org quoting reference 2014-34

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