The Rook is a gregarious bird of farmland across the United Kingdom. These intelligent birds are admired for their intelligence, maligned for their habit of eating grain, and revered for the good and bad omens they are thought to signify.
Rooks are all-black corvids, similar in appearance to the Carrion Crow. However, the Rook is easily distinguished by the bare whitish skin around its bill. This bird has a somewhat scruffy appearance, with bulky and untidy plumage and a steeply angled crown.
Female Rooks look very similar to males, although they are generally smaller. Juveniles have fully-feathered faces, which makes them difficult to distinguish from crows in the late spring and summer.
Identifying Rooks in the UK can be challenging due to their likeness to other UK corvids like the Carrion Crow, Raven, Jackdaw, and Chough. Read our in-depth guide to corvids of the UK for more information on these birds.
Pair of Rooks perching on overhead cables
Rooks are medium-sized corvids, about the same size as the Carrion Crow and much smaller than the Raven.
The Rook has a body length of 44 to 46 centimetres.
These birds weigh 325 to 571 grams. Males have an average body weight of approximately 485 grams, while the smaller females average 425 grams.
Their wingspan measures 81 to 99 centimetres. Males have longer wings on average.
Rook standing on the rocks by a river
Adult Rooks produce typical crow-like vocalisations. Their call is a raucous, drawn-out cawing, and their song includes various other notes and phrases like clicking and gurgling sounds.
Rook standing on a fence 'cawing' in the open countryside
Rooks are adaptable omnivores that feed primarily on invertebrates like worms and beetles in the warmer months and grain in the autumn and winter. However, they have a varied diet and will take small vertebrates like rodents, eggs and chicks, fruits, berries, and acorns.
Rooks find most of their food on the ground or in the soil, but they will also visit bird tables. These intelligent birds are known to cache their food by burying it in the ground and covering it with leaves or soil.
Rook chicks eat worms and other invertebrates. Both parents feed the young for the month or so they are in the nest and then a further six weeks while they learn to forage for themselves.
Rook in its natural habitat with a walnut in its beak
Rooks are most at home in arable and pasture farmland. They require large trees nearby for nesting and roosting. They may forage in larger parks and gardens and will also use large trees on the edge of urban and suburban areas.
Rooks are widespread in the UK, occurring almost everywhere but the far northwest of Scotland, mountainous areas in Wales and the greater London area. Elsewhere, the species occurs through Southern and Central Europe to China and Japan.
Rooks are associated with people, at least in the sense that they forage in farmland and along country roadsides. These birds generally feed on the ground but rest, sleep, and nest in trees.
Rooks are very common in the United Kingdom despite a significant decrease in the breeding population over the last few decades. The current population is estimated at approximately one million breeding pairs.
Rooks are widespread in the United Kingdom. Look and listen out for these birds in farmland and along roadsides. They are generally absent from city centres but may visit parks and larger village gardens.
Two Rooks foraging in farmland
Rooks are relatively long-lived birds, with an average life expectancy of about six years for individuals who survive adulthood. However, these birds can live in the wild for at least 22 years.
Humans have traditionally been a significant predator of Rooks, both for pest control and food. These large birds have relatively few predators, although old, sick, or injured individuals could fall prey to large birds of prey and carnivores like foxes.
Rooks are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Rooks are not endangered, although their population is decreasing. These birds are listed as a ‘Least Concern’ species by the IUCN and are Amber Listed in the UK.
Rook resting on a wooden fence post
Rooks nest communally in rookeries, usually in stands of large trees. The largest rookeries may contain thousands of nests, and there may be dozens of nests in a single tree. The Rook’s nest is a large cup of twigs, lined with softer materials like dry grass, and built by both sexes.
Rooks nest just once each year and build their nests in late winter in time to lay their eggs in March. The female incubates the eggs for 16 to 18 days, and the chicks fledge after 30 to 36 days.
Rooks lay a single brood of three or four heavily marked and spotted greenish eggs. Each one measures approximately 40 millimetres long and 28 millimetres wide.
Rooks are thought to form lifelong pairs, but this does not mean they are always faithful to their partner. The pairs remain together within their flocks, even through the winter.
Rooks nesting high up in the trees
A nest of a Rock with three eggs
Rooks are highly gregarious birds that live in colonies and show little serious aggression toward each other. However, they can exhibit aggressive behaviour in the context of defending their partner and when fighting over food, particularly in the winter. They are relatively peaceful towards other bird species.
Rooks roost communally in trees in woodlands and forested areas. Some birds may continue to roost at the rookery (nest site) throughout the year, although most gather into large flocks after the breeding season and roost elsewhere, often in the company of Jackdaws.
Two Rooks perching in the trees
Rooks do not migrate in the United Kingdom and Western Europe, where they can be seen throughout the year. The eastern populations in Asia migrate between breeding ranges in the north and overwintering sites in the south.
Rooks are a native species in the United Kingdom and the rest of their European and Asian range. They were introduced to New Zealand in the 19th century to control agricultural pests but are now considered a pest species there.
Rook in-flight in natural habitat
Rooks, Crows, and Ravens are not the same birds, although they are related. Each is a member of the Corvidae family and the Corvus genus. Despite similar appearance and ancestry, each is a unique species with its own distinct behaviours and physical characteristics.
Rooks can cause damage to cereal crops in arable farmlands, although this is somewhat mitigated by the benefits they provide by eating insect pests.
A group of Rooks is most popularly known as a parliament, although other collective nouns include a clamour and a building of Rooks.
Like most species in the Crow family, Rooks are highly intelligent birds. They have demonstrated their problem-solving abilities, teamwork, and tool-use skills in laboratory settings, although tool use has yet to be recorded in nature.
Rooks are notoriously noisy birds, which is why they are sometimes known collectively as a clamour. These social birds use their voices to communicate above the din of all their neighbours. They may begin calling well before sunrise, which can disturb people who live near a rookery or roost site.
Superstition suggests that Rooks leaving their rookery is a bad omen, but this behaviour is expected at the end of the nesting season. The birds leave their nesting area to form larger roosting flocks with other Rooks and Jackdaws. A more permanent departure from a Rookery could potentially be explained by major changes in their environment, significant disturbances or other causes that vary by case.
44cm to 46cm
81cm to 99cm
325g to 571g
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