titanchatbanner

What Do Rooks Eat A Corvid Culinary Exploration 3

Avian Cooperation: Rooks Work Together to Solve Puzzle for Food

Nests are built high in the trees and made of twigs and branches. These are broken off trees or stolen from a nearby nest. Some rookeries can contain thousands of birds, with their noisy calls making them easy to discover. Worms, beetles and other invertebrates are the rook’s main food, which it catches by probing the ground with its large beak. It will also feed on grain, fruit, acorns and occasionally carrion and birds’ eggs. Rooks have all-black plumage, but an iridescent sheen is notable when seen up close.

What do animals eat

Thanks to Clayton’s own eclectic tastes, which span consciousness to choreography (her other love, besides birds, is dance), the lab also engenders a curious synthesis of ideas drawn from both science and the arts. The rook (Corvus frugilegus) is a member of the family Corvidae in the passerine order of birds. It is found in the Palearctic, its range extending from Scandinavia and western Europe to eastern Siberia. It is a large, gregarious, black-feathered bird, distinguished from similar species by the whitish featherless area on the face. Rooks nest collectively in the tops of tall trees, often close to farms or villages, the groups of nests being known as rookeries.

An open letter signed by 358 academics from around the world has called on the university to reconsider. One signatory, Alex Thornton, a professor of cognitive evolution at Exeter University, said it would represent an act of “scientific vandalism and monumental self-sabotage”. Emery told me that creating something similar somewhere else would be pretty difficult, “if not impossible”, and incredibly expensive. “These birds cannot be purchased ‘off the shelf’,” he said. “If Nicky’s corvid lab closes down, then it couldn’t really start up again.” As the letter states, the lab at Madingley is the only one of its kind in the UK, and remains “globally unique in its size and capability”. “Magic reveals a lot about the blind spots we have,” says Clayton, and lately magic has opened up a new line of inquiry for the lab.

They are slightly smaller than crows, with a typical wingspan of 90cm. The species’ key identifying feature is the grey-white skin at the base of its long, pointed beak. This distinguishes it from the similar-looking carrion crow, which has an all-black beak. Chimpanzees, and possibly a few other primates, are the only other species that have proved themselves capable of the same task. Rooks are extremely social birds, living in colonies of hundreds of members, and are likely to have faced evolutionary pressure to learn to cooperate, Seed says. As news that the lab faces closure has rippled through the scientific community, the reaction has been of sadness and dismay.

Only this time the venue is the Comparative Cognition Laboratory in Madingley, Cambridge, and the ball is a waxworm. Leo – poised, pointy, determined – is perched on a wooden platform eager to place his bet. A wriggling morsel is laid under one of three cups, the cups shuffled. He snatches What do birds eat the waxworm in his beak and retreats to enjoy his prize. Aristotle, a fellow resident donned in a glossy black feather coat, who has been at the aviary almost as long as the lab itself, looks on knowingly. Rooks are communal breeders, nesting in colonies known as rookeries.

What do animals eat

Their nests are solidly constructed of twigs and soil and are used year after year. The birds lay three to five light greenish, heavily speckled eggs, and the young are able to fly about a month after birth. Rooks dig for larvae and worms in meadows and plowed fields and may pull up grain seedlings and young potato plants. Rooks are mainly resident birds, but the northernmost populations may migrate southwards to avoid the harshest winter conditions. The birds form flocks in winter, often in the company of other Corvus species or jackdaws.

One of the big questions for her concerned “mental time travel” – the ability to remember the past or plan for the future. “People assumed this is something that only humans have,” she says. But, at Madingley, she observed that jays were also capable of thinking about the future.

What do animals eat

They are good at problem-solving and memory puzzles and they can even use tools. Referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action. Rooks are highly social, living and interacting in large groups, although mating tends to monogamous. This bird species is largely arboreal and actively defends its territory.

What do animals eat

They return to their rookeries and breeding takes place in spring. They forage on arable land and pasture, probing the ground with their strong bills and feeding largely on grubs and soil-based invertebrates, but also consuming cereals and other plant material. Historically, farmers have accused the birds of damaging their crops, and have made efforts to drive them away or kill them. Like other corvids, they are intelligent birds with complex behavioural traits and an ability to solve simple problems. Watching alongside me is Professor Nicola Clayton, a psychologist who founded the lab 22 years ago, and we are joined by Francesca Cornero, 25, a PhD researcher (and occasional cups and balls technician).