The Rook is a large, familiar member of the crow family which is commonly found across the whole of Britain and Ireland, parts of western Europe and eastwards into Russia. It is a wintering species in southern Europe and is absent from all but the southernmost parts of Scandinavia. Rooks are found mainly in lowland areas, particularly in agricultural parts, with shortcropped grassy fields being a real favourite. Rooks can also be seen in city parks and gardens.
A very sociable bird, Rooks will often join up with flocks of Carrion Crows and, especially, Jackdaws. When they are on the ground, Rooks appear rather ungainly as they hop and waddle around, in search of seeds, insects and worms.
Rooks have an unmistakable appearance. Pointed bill, pale face, a very high forehead and, at the other end, a very shaggy ‘trousered’ look about the legs. They are somewhat more bulky in build than Carrion Crows, with a less ‘tidy’ look about them.
Adult Rooks are glossy black all over with a decidedly purple sheen, particularly on the head and wings. The base of the bill, the chin and the lores show as a large area of whitish bare skin, which can be seen at considerable range. The bill, slender and pointed, is silvery-black, the eye is black and the legs and feet are silvery-black.
Perhaps the most ‘familiar’ view of Rooks is this one, of groups perched high amongst the bare trees of winter, congregating around the old nests as nightfall approaches. All around, the distinctive, gentle-sounding ‘kaah’ can be heard. Rookeries can hold many birds and there is a whole host of folklore attached to them.
When seen closely, the flight shape of the Rook is very distinctive. The head looks long, the wings appear pointed and narrower than the Carrion Crow’s and the tail is rounded or wedge-shaped.
In farmland, Rooks are often seen in fields, searching out various food items, such as worms or root crops and potatoes.
Young Rooks can superficially resemble Carrion Crows, but can be told by size, shape of the head and those trousers! The plumage is entirely dark brown, lacking the gloss of the adults, and the face is fully feathered. As the young Rook grows, the plumage begins to blacken except for the wings, which stay brown.