When it comes to an ugly contest in the bird world, the Rook wins hands-down.
Similar in size to the Carrion Crow but more untidy in its appearance, they are easily identified by grey/white skin at the base of the bill, a peaked head and shaggy thigh feathers that resemble baggy trousers.
With over 1.2 million breeding pairs of these unsightly birds throughout the UK, flocks of Rooks overhead (often accompanied by Jackdaws) are a familiar sight to us all.
The Rook is an extremely social bird, foraging in groups and nesting communally, pairs stay together for years, often for life.
Not so well known amongst us is the Rooks intelligence. When it comes to brains, the Great British Rook stands alone! They are prolific problem solvers, able to use tools to reach their goal. Tests carried out showed that Rooks can bend a length of straight wire into a hook, enabling them to retrieve worms from the bottom of a glass tube. If the tube is partially filled with water, the Rook will drop stones in to raise the water level until the worm is reachable. Evidence enough of how bright this strange looking bird is, but I would like to share with you my own personal favourite.
Scientists studying Rook behaviour, filmed Rooks collecting nuts and dropping them onto a main road, vehicles ran over the nuts, cracking them open for the birds to retrieve. Now this is clever in itself but even more impressive in this case was that the birds had picked a stretch of road next to a pedestrian crossing. They would wait for someone to press the button at the crossing, holding back until the lights turn red before descending to collect the cracked nuts in safety.
This clearly demonstrates a clear comprehension of cause and effect, as well as an appreciation of a wholly alien (human) concept, traffic lights…
Ugly most definitely, bird brained I think not!!