Jackdaw: Friend or foe?

Many people see these birds as harmless while others know the damage they cause

Many people see these birds as harmless while others know the damage they cause - Credit: Archant

The editor asks a question about this controversial bird

The jackdaw is a member of the corvid clan and gets very mixed reviews about its place in the countryside. Some people in the village love them for their cheeky behaviour, as they hop around the High Street, eating food scraps or sitting on the roof of the bus stop. Others see that they cause the same damage that their cousins like magpies and crows do in eating the eggs of songbirds and making a nuisance of themselves around the farm. Gamekeepers make them unwelcome because of the amount of feed they take from gamebird pens, and their taste for the eggs of pheasants and partridges.

Over recent years, I’ve seen their numbers increase and this year the population seems to have exploded.

As I write, there are about a dozen in my apple tree and I can see ten or so more on the rooftops of adjacent houses. On a recent trip into the village, I saw about 75 all together along the rooftops of some shops, making a huge racket with their distinctive call. At dawn and dusk on the big estate where I shoot, I’ve stood and watched them returning to their roost on an adjacent farm in their hundreds. In fact, they seem to be coming over for about an hour every evening at the moment.

This has all left me wondering what has changed in their world to have allowed their numbers to have increased so dramatically, and I wonder how many of you are seeing this happen in your area, as well. I live in the south of Surrey not far from the border with West Sussex. One local gamekeeper I know is tearing his hair out about the huge numbers of them getting into pheasant feed at this time of year, and along with the jackdaw’s cousin, the rook, the huge damage they do to the maize cover crops as the winter wears on.

If any of you are sharing my experience or have any knowledge of the change that has expanded the jackdaw population so radically, please write in and let me know.

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