ROOKS AND THEIR COMPANIONS
"YOU go and scare they rooks out o' that field. They be
eating all the seed," I heard a Devonshire farmer say
to his boy one day. He was quite right. He had not
sown his wheat deep enough, and the rooks were feeding
But some time after another farmer pointed to the rooks
in his field, where the corn was green. "See how they
be pulling up they young oats," said he. And so they
were. But when we looked at the plants which they had
pecked up, we found that each one had a place in the
root where a grub had been living.
This time the rooks had been doing useful work.
Wire-worms and other grubs eat away the roots of grass,
corn, and turnips all across a field. When the rooks
kill a few grubs, they often save the whole crop.
Once, a long time ago, some Devonshire farmers gave a
large reward for rooks' heads, thinking they did harm
to the farms. All the rooks around were
 soon killed. But the farmers were sorry afterwards.
During the next three years all their crops were
destroyed by insects and grubs. They had to persuade
some fresh rooks to build in their neighbourhood to
keep down the insects.
No doubt rooks do some mischief, for they eat birds'
eggs, and newly sown corn, new potatoes, and green
walnuts. They even sometimes pull grain out of the
stacks, when they are short of food. But they destroy
so many wire-worms and grubs, snails and slugs, maggots
and insects of all kinds, that they do more good than
You all know the heavy whirring cockchafer, which flops
into your face in the evening. But perhaps you do not
know that before he had wings he lived for three or
four years underground feeding on the roots of grass
and corn. Rooks eat these cockchafer grubs wherever
they can find them, and so save our crops.
I hope you have rooks near you, for they are delightful
to watch. When they build their huge nests high up in
the forks of trees, they make a great deal of noise and
bustle. The father-rook begins to fetch food for his
mate even before she lays her eggs, and feeds her all
the time she is sitting.
The old birds feed the young ones long after they are
hatched. If you watch, you may see the young ones
sitting on the edge of the nest opening their mouths to
be fed. Rooks like to build near old houses, and use
the same nests year after year. They will not allow
strange rooks to join them.
 If the trees in which they build lose their leaves in
winter, the rooks do not stay there long after the last
young ones are able to fly. About August or September
they often go to the beech and pine woods to sleep, and
do not come back to their
 rookery till the spring. But every now and then on
their way to and fro they call at their rookery and
look after their nests.
ROOKS IN A ROOKERY.
Crows do not live together in numbers like rooks. They
live in pairs, and build their nests in the top of some
high tree away from houses. They are more mischievous
than rooks, for they feed on birds and young lambs,
young pigeons, ducks, or chickens.
You may tell a crow from a rook at a distance because
you very seldom see more than two together. When you
can see them near, you will know them apart, because
the rook, after he is a year old, has a bald patch on
his head just above his beak, where the crow has
Have you ever noticed how gravely a rook walks across a
field? He does not hop like a thrush or a sparrow, but
moves one foot after the other, and gives a little jump
every now and then. One or two always remain on the
trees near, to give notice of danger, and when these
sentinels cry "caw-caw" the whole flock rises. They
fly away, flapping their wings slowly, and drop down
one by one in another field.
A friend of mine who lives near a rookery says she
often sees from her window one or two sentinel rooks go
round every morning and wake up the others, and it is
very funny to see how the lazy ones scramble up in a
great hurry at the last, so as to be in time to fly
away with the rest.
Though rooks will not allow another party of their own
kind to join them, they allow starlings,
 jackdaws, and fieldfares to feed with them. A Jackdaw
moves much like a rook, though he is a more sprightly
bird. He is smaller and has a grey patch on his head.
The Starling (see p. 53) is a walking
bird. Though his head and back are black, he has so
many bright colours on the tips of his feathers that he
does not look so dark as the rook and the jackdaw, but
very bright and gay.
I wonder why these birds like so much to follow the
rooks? Perhaps it is because the rook has a keen
scent, and turns up the earth for food with his long
beak. The jackdaw and starling only pick up what they
find above ground, so when the rook turns up the earth,
they may get some of the food.
Try to see a rook, a crow, a jackdaw, and a
starling, a magpie and a jay, and point out how you
know them apart.