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Rook (Corvus frugilegus)

Flocks of these noisy black birds are a common sight across the UK countryside.

Common name: rook

Scientific name: Corvus frugilegus

Family: Corvidae (crows, jays and magpies)

Appearance

Head: Rooks have a black head with a distinctive grey-white beak. This is the easiest way to tell them apart from the similar carrion crow, which has an all-black beak.

Wings: Rooks appear all back from a distance, but an iridescent sheen is notable when seen up close.

Body: A relatively large bird, rooks are just slightly smaller than crows, with a typical wing-span of around 31cm.

Where to spot

With close to a million pairs living in the UK, the rook is a common bird and can be seen in farmland and open woodland across the country. Rooks are more social than carrion crows and are normally seen in large flocks.

Feeding

Worms, beetles and other invertebrates are the species’ main prey, which it catches by probing the ground with its large beak. Rooks will also feed on grain, carrion, small mammals and birds.

Breeding

Rooks breed communally, normally building their nests high in the tree tops. These nesting sites are known as rookeries. Rooks will typically build their nests in February or March, but may start as early as January. The beginning of nest building is something that we are recording through the Nature’s Calendar project, which relies on the public recording sightings of certain species, behaviour and events to help scientists better understand the impact of weather and climate change on wildlife. Why not get involved and record your sightings?

Facts

  • Rookeries may contain huge numbers of birds, with thousands roosting together.
  • Collective nouns for rooks include congregation, storytelling, building, parliament and clamour.
  • Like other members of the crow family, rooks are intelligent and have demonstrated the ability to use tools and solve problems.
  • Rooks are often seen feeding alongside jackdaws, a smaller member of the crow family. 

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