A parliament of rooks passes judgement on its weakest members

Posted in Animals, Birds, Nature, Wildlife on Wednesday, 12 March 2014

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This edited article about the Rook first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 587 published on 14 April 1973.

Rooks with nest, picture, image, illustration

Rooks' nest

The months of March and April are busy times in a rookery. Activity starts early in the year but it is not until these months that the eggs are laid. Male rooks are very considerate husbands and fathers. They are responsible for building the nest and for feeding the hen during the 16 days when she incubates her eggs. The males also help to feed the young when they are hatched.

You may sometimes see a most mysterious display of rook behaviour which is the ‘rook parliament’. This is when a group of rooks encircle an individual and after much cawing and apparent discussion set upon the unfortunate victim and peck it to death. On the face of it, this looks very much like trial and punishment, but when the dead bird has been examined it has been found to be diseased or sick. So, perhaps, this is just another example of the survival of the fittest for the good of the race.

Rooks, carrion crows, and ravens are sometimes confused because they look so alike. But as a general rule, if you see a flock of large black birds in a field they are probably rooks. If only one or two are seen together they are more likely to be crows. Ravens are much larger birds with more powerful beaks and are usually seen only in wild, hilly country.

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