Joey was a real character, a foundling that had been reared as a chick by a young boy. Whether or not he was simply found or perhaps more questionably, taken from the nest, I know not. However, the boy's mother eventually had had enough of Joey's persistent mischief making and misdemeanours. As a result, she instructed her son to 'get rid of it!' Meanwhile, Joey had discovered a nearby roadside cafe - food, not necessarily for thought but food if you were clever enough, for free - available throughout the day from customers' plates and thus not exactly to the pleasure of the cafe's proprietor, or indeed his clients. What was at first an amusement soon became a thorough nuisance.
All members of the corvid clan somehow attract varying degrees of hostility and Joey, being a jackdaw, was no exception. However, his regular presence at the cafe became such a nuisance that I was asked to intercede. As he was so tame, he readily perched upon my shoulder and so I was able easily to take him in hand and take him home. Joey settled in very well but we soon discovered that it was necessary for us to keep all windows closed for he turned out to be an expert jewel thief! All jackdaws are known to find sparkly objects particularly fascinating and Joey had an especially keen eye for such things and given the chance, would seize such prizes and hide them away.
Crows in general, as I've said many times before, are exceptionally intelligent and again Joey was no exception. He was also very sociable and soon began to pay visits to our neighbours...uninvited. On the occasion of one flying visit, he decided to inspect the inner reaches of a neighbour's car, finding a convenient perch on one of the headrests. The owner, utterly unaware of Joey's presence, jumped in, started the engine, put the car into gear, looked in her mirror, saw Joey and immediately jumped out! Happily someone was on hand to bring the vehicle to a halt before any damage was well and truly done! In addition, another neighbour, hearing a curious hammering sound emanating from her utility room, on investigation, discovered Joey pecking furiously at a de-frosting loaf!
As a result of such unwanted visitations, Joey had sadly to be incarcerated and consigned to life in an aviary. But even then, he maintained his sense of mischief. A neighbour's dog was in the habit of visiting our garden and every time it did, Joey yelled out "Joey" several times. The dog, not aware of any human presence and not knowing from whence the voice was coming, always quickly turned tail and fled! However, Joey's was a limited vocabulary yet now I began to gain increasing respect for a bird, which might have been quite a linguist, given the chance! Although in the early days he often made a nuisance of himself, he was nevertheless, a mighty intelligent bird.
Jackdaws are the smallest members of the crow family, noted for a handsome greying of the head plumage at the nape of the neck and for their grey or in the case of young birds, blue eyes. That jackdaws clearly have an appetite for pleasurable activity was well demonstrated to me the other day. The wind had got up and suddenly the sky was filled with a mass of jackdaws. Their loud 'chacking' or 'jacking' echoed across the landscape before suddenly, this horde of birds began to fling itself about the sky like so many dancing dervishes.
Their gyrations were simply mind boggling as birds raced down the wind, soaring upwards before with a flick of their wings, they were all hurtling towards the ground at breakneck speed. Jackdaws, by the way, have been recorded flying down the wind at over eighty miles an hour! Despite their death defying antics there is never even the slightest suggestion of any bird losing control. Indeed, some of them, as they hurled themselves across the sky, seemed to be playing a gigantic game of tag. Yet perceptibly, many of the participants in this wind-defying game were clearly playing in pairs.
On other calmer days, I have of late been watching jackdaws flying from building to building in two of our local villages...always in pairs. Often they descended to street level to explore the tossed away remnants of a sandwich or perhaps resort to inspecting the litter-bins in the hope of finding something like the remains of fish suppers! During both winter and summer, they always seem to operate in pairs, for jackdaws are among the most constant and faithful of birds, pairing for life, the bond between 'husband and wife' strengthening with each passing year.
Jackdaws live in highly structured societies, with a kind of caste system dictating the place of each bird in the community. As is often the case in human society, those deemed to be inferior birds are sometimes bullied by their superiors, which of course, also always enjoy the best feeding. However, when a previously persecuted female pairs up with one of the 'upper class' males, she often, in company with her partner, aggressively seeks retribution against the birds that previously bullied her. 'Marrying' above her station quickly lifts her into the higher ranks!
Most flocks of jackdaws have a clearly distinguished 'head' bird leading the flock. Surprisingly perhaps, this chieftain seems to take a benevolent view of his underlings, whilst at the same time always keeping them in their place. This hierarchy seems to work well and even more surprisingly, should disputes in the flock arise, the 'boss' will usually take the side of the 'underdog' and thus quickly resolve the quarrel!
Because jackdaws are so easy to tame, those who study the foibles of avian life are naturally and more easily, able to study these birds very closely indeed. In addition, they also quickly bond with their 'owners'. Hence we probably know more about them than we do about most other avian species. Whatever the purpose of such studies, I am sure that those scientists not only learn about the jackdaw's lifestyle but also derive much pleasure from their research. To my mind, jackdaws are birds which enjoy life and exude an air of comedy. They always bring a smile to my face. Not only do they leave us open-mouthed at their amazing aerobatics - their sheer flying versatility - but they also bring, when they come down to ground a 'Chaplainesque' air whilst strutting their stuff among the madding crowds.
However, one downside of having jackdaws as neighbours is that they rather fancy chimneys as nesting sites. I know of a number of such incidents - they largely build their nests from sticks - and on more than one occasion have been known to fill a chimney so thoroughly with twigs that their nests eventually went from chimney top all the way down to the ground floor! And of course, because of their community orientated way of life, where one pair of jackdaws chooses a nesting site, others will not be far away - in other adjacent chimneys perchance? Jackdaws can frequently be seen around chimney pots, so look up!
Watch out then for jackdaws on those windy winter days. You will I'm sure, be amazed by their aerial dexterity. You may also quite legitimately interpret their 'jacking' as laughter! They are without doubt, fun loving birds!