Have you seen those broken black lines in the sky at dusk?


Where are the jackdaws and rooks going at dusk? In this month’s nature column, Jane Adams discovers her local corvids are having a noisy sleepover.

The jackdaw has several call notes, commonest is the ‘jickaaw’ (like it is saying jackdaw). Other notes in the same pitch are ‘Kyak’ – ‘Keeyak‘ and an alarm call of ‘Kiiyaar’ image: Jane Adams

Have you noticed how jackdaws and rooks often fly in broken lines across the sky at dusk?
Get up high and you might spot hundreds of lines, each one like a spoke in an aerial wheel leading to a central hub. Their winter roost.

If you’re below a ‘spoke’, it can be a noisy affair. I can’t help imagining frustrated parents screaming at their wing-dragging youngsters, imploring them to get a move on.

Home to roost

In reality, this calling whilst flying may just be a way for family groups to stick together as the light fades, and if you follow one of these lines, you’ll be in for a treat.

I live on a ridge. It’s a supple spine of Dorset chalk flecked with oak, beech and elm. Half a mile away is another ridge, and between lies a valley cradling a patchwork of rain-soaked fields. I came across my local rook and jackdaw roost by chance. They’re worth looking out for – though goodness knows how I missed mine for so many years.

A noise you feel inside

From my ridge, I can see black wings converging on a group of tall beech trees across the valley. Silhouetted against a blood-red sky, they resemble black bees buzzing round a towering hive. I can’t hear them properly from this distance, but as I walk down the hill and cross the valley, the sound of yaks and craws increases. By the time I reach their roosting trees, their individual calls have combined into a bellow. A sound that gets right inside you.

There must be hundreds, maybe thousands of birds. But within the chaos of flapping wings and calls, there’s also order. I pick out groups – possibly families – sitting side-by-side on branches. They’re squeezed together, their wings touching, somehow ignoring the surrounding chaos.

As I walk away, there’s the sound of a distant gunshot. The roost takes to the air as one screaming, dislodged entity. It circles, rising and falling in the fading light like a billowing black sheet.

Gradually, it settles back into the trees.
Then silence.

By our wildlife guest columnist, Jane Adams – Naturalist. bTB Badger Vaccinator. Nature writer. Photographer. Bee Watcher.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Share post:

More like this

The Symbiotic Symphony

Most native wildflowers rely on insects to pollinate them...

The nightingale sang… on vanishing scrub

says wildlife writer Jane Adams They are part of our...

Skylarks of Fontmell Down

Boasting vibrant displays of chalk downland flowers and butterflies,...

Beyond fetch; Lucy Nolan’s training the dog owners | BV Podcast

One in three of us yearns to throw in...