Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rook: Competition

This sociable bird is readily found in farming areas, feeding on insects and grubs as well as sown grain and peas. Believing that rooks were pests, farmers for centuries killed them. In fact, James I of Scotland introduced a law in 1424 to eliminate all rooks from his kingdom. However, the rook has managed to survive through it all.

This glossy black bird with a white beak is a part of European folklore. “As the crow flies” originally referred to the steady flight of the rook. An English legend says the Tower of London will fall and the Monarchy will be in danger if less than six rooks live there. In addition, many people believed that the desertion of a rookery to be a bad omen. Local English folklore says that someone in the area will die, and that no heir will be born to the family of the Manor.

A gregarious bird, the rook is very colonial, preferring to live in a large flock (called a Parliament). In belonging to her Parliament, the rook follows certain rules. There is a ‘pecking order’ in which the oldest bird lives at the center of the rookery, where he is sheltered from the wind. When the Parliament is feeding, rook sentries are posted to warn the other rooks when danger threatens. Their loud echoing “caws” can be heard throughout the countryside.

Loyal to her mate and to her rookery, the rook returns to the same nest site every year, with her Parliament. During the fall, her mate finds a high and solitary spot and sings to her. When the female rook responds, he offers food to her. After the male rook feeds her, he bows and calls to the female from a branch. High in the trees, they build an untidy nest of twigs. (Local folklore says if the rook’s nest “be high in the treetops, be a fine summer; if be low, then summer be wet and cold”.)

However, there are times when the rook is fiercely competitive. During nesting time, Mother Rook stands guard for many days over her nesting spot, fighting off other rooks. She quarrels with her friends over the best sticks to build her nest. Later, Mother and Father Rook will compete for food with other rook parents to feed their chicks. Unfortunately, with many birds trying to grab as much food as they can, many rook chicks fail to survive.

The rook teaches proper ways to compete. When she looks for food, she does it for her chicks. In being the most competitive, the rook gets the most food for them. However, do not be so fiercely competitive that you cause others to fail to thrive.

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