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Four different corvid skulls


Corvids are a family of birds that include all the big black ugly ones, like ravens, crows, jackdaws and rooks, as well as some prettier birds like magpies and jays. These are big powerful birds that can knock buzzards out the sky and kill them, and I heard about a sparrowhawk that was killed by a crow.

There are over 120 species of corvids, but only eight live in the UK. They eat whatever they can find, even meat, but they don't have a hooked beak to rip animals over, so they have to wait until the carcasses are opened up before they can eat. That is why you see so many on motorways to eat the roadkill.

I have five corvid skulls, but two are from the same bird, and this week I am going to write about them.

  • The rook skull

I was walking with dad at the edge of the Pheasant Woods at the start of July, and we found the body of some kind of corvid. It was rotting, but not quite bones yet. Dad pulled the head off and we took it home. I cleaned it by leaving it in  biological washing powder and hot water, which took off the rest of the skin and feathers.

It was only when we measured it that we could start to work out what it was. It is just over 8cm, and it has the bottom jaw and beak sheaths as well.

Then I looked on skullsite.com to try and figure out what it was. The skull it was most like was a rook. Rooks are quite a large type of corvid, and you can tell them apart from other corvids by the light beak that goes all the way back into the face.

Here are some of my other corvid skulls:

  • Jackdaw skull

I can see jackdaws on my bird table because they have a nest in the roof of my friend Holly's house. They are easy to tell apart from other black corvids because they are smaller and have shiny feathers round the back of the neck and chest. The eyes are like a yellow ring with a hole in the middle, which is different to other corvids.

Dad found this skull in March in Fallen Tree Wood. This skull is much smaller than the rook, and it is 6.5cm long. Apart from the size it is very similar to the rook, and they sometime hang around with rooks in big flocks.

  • Carrion crow skull

Sometimes people say "crow" when they just mean "corvids". There are two types of crow, the carrion crow (which is all black) and the hooded crow (which is grey and black). I found this skull in the gamekeeper's pit at Dougal's Cairn wood. Gamekeepers kill a lot of corvids and I am going to write about that in a minute.

This skull is 8.8cm long, bigger than the jackdaw but a bit smaller than a rook. The orbits (eye sockets) are much further apart than the rook maybe because it has a bigger brain. Crows are the smartest corvids. They tend to be in just ones or twos, not like the big flocks of jackdaws or rooks.

  • Magpie skull

My magpie skull is the smallest one of the four at 5.5cm. The beak has less of a curve in than the other skulls. Magpies are one of the easiest to tell apart because they look black and white with other colours of green and blue if you look hard enough. They are smaller and have longer tails. You don't see as many of them round here as the other crows or jackdaws.

  • Why gamekeepers don't like corvids

Gamekeepers don't like corvids because corvids can take pheasant and grouse eggs to break open and eat. This makes it hard work for gamekeepers to look after pheasants, so they use traps to catch them.

One of the types of traps is called a Larsen trap. This is one of them:

The trap is three different cages joined together. Gamekeepers put in a decoy bird in the middle cage, and they have to give it food and water. Then other birds fly down to perch in the other empty cages, but when they land, the lid shuts and they can't get out. Gamekeepers are allowed to use these only if they check it every day, and only to catch magpies, crows, jackdaws, rooks and jays, which they can kill, usually by breaking its neck.. If they find any other bird, they have to release it. In Scotland every trap has to have a tag from the police Wildlife Crimes Officer.

Here is a corvid that was trapped in a case with a decoy bird in the middle.

If you see a trap like this it is best to leave it along, but if it has a bird of prey in, let the gamekeeper or the RSPB know.

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Psydrache said...

Hi Jake,

I dont think that the black corvids are ugly. Well, they are only black and the voice isn't very melodic, but the corvids are very intelligent birds. Some corvids are like parrots and you can learn them words! Sometimes I wish I had a raven as pet ;D

Your collection of corvid skulls is awesome. I really like the rook skull with the beak sheats. I think its rare to get a skull with intact beak sheats so you are a lucky one!

Oh, and it's always a pleasure to read your Blog. I'm from Switzerland so my english isn't that well, but it's a good training to read your adventures! I wish the forests where I live wehre so full of bones like yours, haha!

Have a good time!


Jake said...

Glad you liked my blog ! I have always wanted to go to Switzerland. We had to pick a country to do a project on at school last year and I chose Switzerland.

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