Jackdaw by Dresser, 1907
Jackdaw illustrated by Henry Eeles Dresser, published in John James Lewis Bonhote's The Birds of Britain, 1907.
The Western Jackdaw is a member of the Corvidae, or crow, family. Linneaus classified the species as Corvus monedula in 1758, placing it in the same genus as rooks, ravens, and crows. However, some zoologists have suggested that it may be more appropriate to place the Western Jackdaw and its cousin the Daurian Jackdaw in a separate genus. Within the species there are four recognized subspecies and they can be identified by variations in plumage.The nominate subspecies (C. m. monedula) lives mostly in Eastern Europe, breeding in southern Scandinavia and occasionally wintering in England and France. It has a pale nape and the sides of the neck are also pale, while the throat is dark, and there is a light grey partial collar around the base of the neck. C. m. soemmerringii occupies north-eastern Europe and north-central Asia and it winters in Iran and northern India. The nape and next are paler than in the C.m. monedula causing a stronger contrast between the black crown and the collar. Subspecies, C. m. spermologus, is found across western and central Europe, from the British Isles to Italy. It lacks the light grey collar around the neck and is darker in color to the other subspecies. Finally, C. m. cirtensis can be found in Morocco and Algeria. There is little contrast in its coloration since it has a duller more uniform dark grey plumage.
All jackdaws have black legs and beaks and there is no difference in plumage between the males and females of the species. Additionally, there is minimal size variation; the average size being thirty to thirty-four centimeters long. They travel in flocks, historically called a clattering, and are highly communicative, possessing a variety of calls for different situations. Flocks will occasionally exhibit mobbing behavior against predators and occasionally weak members of the group. Each flock contains an understood social hierarchy. Young male birds establish their status before pairing with a female, who then adopts the same status as her mate. Therefore unpaired females are the lowest in the order, making them the last to have access to food and shelter. Jackdaws pair off after they are a year old and they remain with there partners for life. Breeding takes place in colonies with each pair working together to build a nest in a secure and secluded area. Once the nest in complete the female lays and incubates four to six eggs that hatch after seventeen days. Parents feed their young four about two months after they hatch. Jackdaws are insectivorous, but they can adapt their diet to changes in available food sources. They also feed on farm grains, seeds, fruits, eggs, and carrion.
There are numerous legends and myths pertaining to the jackdaw. Due to their attraction to coins and bright objects, they are portrayed as thieves and vain in folklore. The jackdaw is viewed as a harbinger of rain and an omen of death, because of its black feathers. In Welsh folklore they are considered sacred, because they like to build nests in church steeples. Other traditions say that quarrelling jackdaws indicate that a war is coming.Henry Eeles Dresser (1838-1915) was an ornithologist and businessman. As the eldest son of a businessman, Henry was expected to take over the family business. His father wanted him to control the operation of his Baltic Timber trade so he sent him to Ahrensberg, Gelfe and Uppsala, and Vyberg, to learn German, Swedish, and Finnish, respectively. Dresser travelled extensively for work and possessing a lifelong interest in birds used such opportunities to connect with other ornithologists. He collected bird eggs and skins and in 1858 he was the first English person to collect Waxwing eggs. On a business trip to Texas in 1863, Dresser collected over four hundred bird skins, including those of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker and Whooping Crane, during the year he spent there. In ornithological circles he was a leading figure, authoring over one hundred papers on birds. He became a member of the Biritsh Ornithologist's Union in 1865 and was acting secretary from 1882 to 1888. Dresser was also a fellow of the Linnaean Society, the Zoological Society, an honorary member of the American Ornithologist's Union, and he was involved in the beginnings of the Society for the Protection of Birds. Some of his published works on birds were Palaearctic Birds (1902), A History of the Birds of Europe (1871-81), and The Eggs of the Birds of Europe (1905-10).