Part of the family
Jackdaws are the smallest member of the crow family, which also includes raven, carrion crow and jay. Like most of their cousins, jackdaws are just as much at home in farmland and woodland, as they are in urban landscapes. The latter is thanks to their adaptability and intelligence.
These small crows are highly intelligent and social, and easily pick up tricks and new skills in the wild as well as in captivity. Once a tame jackdaw was trained by some Italian thieves to steal money from cash machines but it’s more common to see them working out how to gain access to bird feeders!
Jackdaws are colonial cavity nesters, and will use anything from a hole in a tree to a chimney. Their nests are usually constructed with sticks to form the outer section of the nest, and lined with wool or hair. You can encourage them to nest within your garden by putting up tawny owl boxes.
Jackdaw nests mainly consist of twigs. Richard Winston/BTO
Love is in the air
Jackdaws form strong pair bonds with their mates and are renowned for their devotion towards their partner. Even if they suffer from a few years of unsuccessful breeding, they still stay together, potentially due to the fact that they have invested so much time and energy into trying to raise young together.
As well as breeding in colonies, jackdaws also roost and feed together. If one jackdaw finds a particularly good supply of food, it will regularly come back to the same area, sometimes encouraging other jackdaws to ‘tag’ along. These birds are often also seen feeding alongside rooks and carrion crows.
Their diet is largely composed of seeds, fruit and invertebrates, but as Jackdaws are also carrion eaters, they will pick at road kill or even take other birds’ eggs. The jackdaw diet varies depending on their location, so near farms insects are important, but in urban and woodland areas seeds and fruit make up more of the diet.
An easy way to identify jackdaws is by their light grey nape and pale white iris, which stand out against the black plumage. Juveniles, however, lack the grey nape and are born with blue-grey eyes. Their irises change to brown in the first winter and white once they gain their adult plumage. The call of the jackdaw is a simple ‘jack-jack’.
- The British Trust of Ornithology (BTO) works in partnership with over 40,000 volunteer birdwatchers to chart the fortunes of UK birds.
- Among the surveys that we coordinate is our popular Garden BirdWatch, the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world.
- Each month we highlight a bird for you to look out for in your garden.
- For more information about Garden BirdWatch or to speak to the Garden Ecology Team please email email@example.com
- Read previous BTO Garden Bird of the Month blogs.