Rook Behaviour Guide
The Garden Rook Survey looked at six categories of behaviour: Feeding, Caching, Tolerance, Object Play, Social and Vocalization.
Rooks feed on a wide variety of foods, including insects, seeds, vegetables and carrion. They will sometimes share food with their partner, placing it into their bill. We wanted to know what people saw Rooks eating and where they were feeding from
During caching (hiding), food is taken into the bill and deposited into the ground; either directly or into a pre-dug hole. The food is placed into it and then covered over. Birds remember where they hid the food and return to it later. They will protect it from thieves, by hiding behind objects or making false caches (such as stones). We asked people if Rooks were caching and whether they came back to recover the food later. We also wanted to know if they altered their behaviour when being watched by other birds
Rooks are one of the most social crows, forming very large flocks. But Rooks also form life-long partnerships, called pairbonds. Rook pairs spend a lot of time close together, feeding one another, displaying and vocalising together and preening. They also act at the same time, one copying the other’s movements. We wanted to know if Rooks were interacting in pairs and groups, and whether they were aggressive to each other.
Rooks, compared to other corvids, are tolerant of other species feeding with them, especially Jackdaws. However, Rooks are large birds that can dominate smaller birds and sometimes displace (take the place) other birds at a bird table.
All corvids are noisy birds, who vocalize to tell others about the location and quality of food, the membership of a pairbond, warning about predators and possibly even their name. We wanted to know what vocalizations were occurring and whether they accompanied visual displays.
Rooks like to play with different objects, including sticks and stones. They will often play tug-of-war with another Rook. Although they don’t use sticks as tools, they do play with them, as well as use them to build nests. We asked if Rooks were using objects, especially in unusual ways.
Avoiding tunnel vision during a PhD
Sophie Bennett reflects on her recent three month placement at the BTO and the value of taking a step back from a PhD.