JACKDAW  Corvus monedula

Choucas des tours

 

Although widespread in Europe the Jackdaw is not a very common bird in Switzerland, it is generally only found below 800m and around the interface of woodland and farmland. This means it really only nests in the plains of the north and occasionally penetrates the low alpine valleys. It is a hole-nester using holes in trees or cliffs or old farm buildings, chateaux or churches (hence the second part of the French name). It is less of a forest bird than a Jay and is less of an open fields bird than a Rook, although it can be frequently seen feeding in company with the latter.

 It is easily identified as one of the smallest of the crow family, black with grey cheeks and neck and in a good view the rather startling blue/ grey eye is quite obvious.

 It will collect anything to drop into its nest and is often attracted to shiny objects, more common around human habitation, and so has the reputation of being a thief.

The birds which breed in Switzerland mostly move off to the south and west in winter, but they are replaced by birds which bred further to the north and east. So we see two different groups.

But like all the crows it is gregarious and rarely found on its own. This means it is also somewhat noisy, keeping up an almost perpetual interplay of calls with others in the flock. The base call is a very piercing  explosive "chouck !" - hence the first part of the French name, which in English seems to be interpreted as "jack !" - hence the first part of the English name ! Here is a group from a rainy day in Norfolk:

 

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 The basic call slides quickly down the scale from about 3Khz to 1.4Khz but it can be very variable.

 

 

 

Here is a flock interacting where a pair call back and

forth in what almost sounds like a double note, with a third joining occasionally with a slightly higher-pitched note:

 

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They can also make a harsh "kraaaaw" which is an alarm note - hear it in the first few seconds of this piece as a group chase a Kestrel away from their church-top colony:

 

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So it is a bird easily detected simply because of the nature of that call from which it derives its name in different languages, it seems able to cut through any background noise and carry a long way.

Have one final listen to this group recorded in North wales, fussing around their colony:

 

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