• Claire Stott

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Noisy, animated, intelligent and occasionally quarrelsome jackdaws are real characters of the bird world, making their presence felt wherever they go with their distinct ‘chack’ call which cuts through the air.

The Jackdaws’ bright blue eyes are particularly striking and looking into them you really feel as though you are being watched by a very intelligent creature.

Jackdaw with distinct pale blue eye

Their curious nature and relative confidence around humans makes it easy to photograph these birds and capture some of their interactions. The Jackdaws here in Aberystwyth are no exception, and by spending considerable time with them over the months and years, this particular flock has become accustomed to my presence making studying and photographing their behaviour relatively easy.

Whilst the flock foraged for insects in the grass today, I took the opportunity to capture some of their social behaviour in pictures.

Foraging for insect larvae

Pulling up grass

Jackdaw foraging for insects

Jackdaws are highly social birds, living in small flocks using consisting of several mated pairs and a few unattached birds. Jackdaws are one of the few birds that is truly monogamous and pairs will regularly stay together until one bird dies, with matings outside the pair very rare indeed.

Pairs tend to stick close together when feeding, often segregating themselves from other members of the flock.

Jackdaw pair, side by side

Jackdaw pair feeding together

One bird keeping watch as their mate feeds

Although usually fairly amicable towards one another, Jackdaws follow a strict hierarchy, particularly when it comes to access to food and nests. More dominant pairs will feed first and see off other subordinate birds with a variety of subtle behaviours and signals.

Relaxed or appeasing Jackdaw will have sleek, flattened feathers, usually with the beak pointed slightly upwards.

Relaxed Jackdaws with flattened down feathers

The first sign of any animosity usually involves a bird raising it’s head feathers to show off the grey nape towards another individual.

Jackdaws facing off with erect feathers

Jackdaw with head and body feathers raised to make the bird appear larger

A more threatening version of this display occurs whilst pointing the beak downwards. This instantly makes the individual appear larger and more intimidating to its rival.

A ‘bill-down’ threat display

Another ‘bill-down’ display

If the bill-down display does not have the desired effect the Jackdaws may then thrust their beaks towards one another with the tail spread in a forward-threat display.

Fortunately displays of this kind is usually enough to settle a dispute and the lower ranking Jackdaw will retreat before a fight occurs.

‘Forward-threat’ display

Jackdaw crouching in defensive posture

— All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2018 © http://www.greyfeatherphotography.com

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#birdwatching #birder #conflict #birdphotographer #birds #ornithology #birdbehaviour #crows #threatdisplays #monogamy #socialbehaviour #corvids #jackdaws

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