jackdaw defined in 1930 yearjackdaw - Jackdaw;
jackdaw - Crown and upper parts black with violet reflections; back of the head and nape grey; iris white; under parts dull black. Length, fourteen inches.
It is hard to pronounce which of our indigenous corvine species is the most interesting. They are all wonderful birds; and to those who have made pets of, and studied them, and know them intimately as most of us know our dogs, they appear to excel other feathered creatures in the quality of mind, just as thrushes, larks, and warblers do in that of melody, and as terns and others of the more aerial kinds excel in graceful motions. If the jackdaw is not the first of his family in intelligence, he is certainly not behind any of them. In beauty he does not compete with the three species already described - chough, jay, and pie - and at a distance is only a lesser rook or carrion crow in appearance; but there is a peculiar look about this bird when seen closely that engages and holds the attention more than mere beauty or grace. When he is sitting in repose, his head drawn in and beak inclining downwards, and turns his face to you, it does not look quite like a bird's face: the feathers puffed out all round make the head appear preternaturally large, and the two small, bright, whitish grey eyes set close together in the middle have an expression of craft that is somewhat human and a little uncanny.
The jackdaw is one of the birds that the gamekeeper wars against without ruth, shooting and trapping them in the breeding season, especially when they are occupied in feeding their young, and can be seen and easily shot in their frequent journeys to and from the nesting-tree. But the jackdaw is not so easy to extirpate as some of its congeners. He is probably just as common as he ever was, while the chough is rapidly dying out, and crow and jay and pie are yearly diminishing in numbers, and the raven, driven from its inland haunts, clings to existence in the wildest and most inaccessible parts of the coast. The reason of this is that the jackdaw is more adaptive than the other species. He has been compared in this respect to the house-sparrow, for he can exist in town as well as country, and readily adapts himself to new surroundings. The variety of sites he uses for breeding purposes shows how plastic are his habits. He breeds apart from his fellows, like the carrion crow; or in communities, like the rook and chough. He builds in hollow trees in parks and woods, in rabbit-burrows, in ruins, church- towers, and buildings of all kinds; and in holes and crevices in cliffs, whether inland or facing the sea, where he lives in company with the rock-pigeon and the puffin. ' At Flamborough,' Seebohm says, ' the jackdaws are very abundant. A republican might call them the aristocracy of the cliffs. Like the modern noble, or the monks of the Middle Ages, they contrive to eat the tat of the land without any ostensible means of living. They apparently claim an hereditary right in the cliffs; for they catch no fish, and do no work, but levy blackmail on the silly guillemots, stealing the fish which the male has brought to the ledges for the female, upsetting the egg of some unfortunate bird who has left it for a short time, and devouring as much of its contents as they can get hold of, when the egg is broken, on some ledge of rock or in the sea.'
The social disposition of the jackdaw, and its friendliness towards other species of its family, is no doubt favourable in the long run to it; for by mixing with the rooks, both when feeding and roosting, he comes in for a share of the protection extended to that bird in most districts. There is also a sentiment favourable to the jackdaw on account of its partiality for churches and castles: the ' ecclesiastical ' daws are safe and fearless of man while soaring and playing round the sacred buildings in villages and towns; when they go abroad to forage, and are not with the rooks, there is danger for them, and they are, accordingly, wary and shy of man.
At all seasons the jackdaw loves to consort with his fellows, and to spend a portion of each day in aerial games and exercises: the birds circle about in the air, pursuing and playfully buffeting one another, and tumbling downwards, often from a great height, only to mount aloft again, to renew the mock chase and battle and downward fall. They are loquacious birds, and frequently call loudly to one another, both when perched and when flying; the usual call- note has a clear, sharp, querulous sound, something like the yelping bark of a small dog.
The nest is a rude structure made with sticks, dry grass, leaves, wool, and other materials heaped together, and is large or small according to the situation; when in a church-tower or hollow tree an enormous quantity of material is sometimes used to fill up the cavity. The eggs are four to six in number, and vary much in size, shape, and markings. They are very pale blue, varying to greenish blue, in ground-colour, and are spotted and blotched with blackish brown and olive-brown, with pinkish grey under-markings.
The jackdaw is omnivorous, but subsists principally on worms, grubs, and insects, which it picks up in the pastures where it feeds in company with rooks and starlings. In spring it will eat the newly sown grain, in autumn devours acorns and beech-mast, and in winter will stoop to carrion.
In captivity the jackdaw makes a clever and amusing pet, and may be taught to repeat a few words.
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