A bird in the hand

Rooks are certainly not the most beautiful of birds. A black angular body and bare, scaly face with sharp beak give them a rather sinister, reptilian appearance. They do also have a unwelcome reputation due to their habit of eating other birds’ eggs and nestlings.

Nevertheless I have always found these birds fascinating and charming, and they can be very photogenic in the rights conditions, as the sunlight reflects of their black feathers revealing a dazzling blue iridescence.

Posing in the sunshine

Unlike their smaller cousins, the Jackdaws, I have always found the Rooks somewhat tricky to photograph. Their highly glossy feathers can make getting the correct exposure difficult, and their cautious nature means they are quick to scarper if startled.

However on this particular day, both the conditions and a bit of luck were on my side resulting in some images I am rather pleased with, and ending in an unforgettable experience.

As a pair of rooks foraged the grassy slopes, I scattered a handful of sunflower hearts in the hope of encouraging them closer. With no other birds to compete with and relatively little human activity around (apart from myself) the rooks appeared confident to approach. Surprisingly they had no difficulty in extracting the tiny seeds from the grass with their unwieldy looking beaks.

Picking seeds from the grass


A pigeon also taking advantage of the extra food

The close proximity enabled me to capture some pleasing portraits of the birds as they foraged, content with the sun warm on their backs, taking the edge off the crisp morning air.

Rook ‘cawing’
Glossy blue feathers
Up close

With the rooks in a bold mood, I stretched out a sunflower seed filled hand, curious to see if they might take some food from me directly. Expecting the birds to scatter immediately, to my immense surprise, after a few tentative glances making sure all was safe, one Rook nervously hopped forward.

From it’s vantage point on the railings, it delicately picked a couple of the seeds from my glove as I stood solid as a rock, hardly daring to move or breathe for fear of scaring it away.

Rook on railings
Approaching to take the seeds

Unlike the pigeons who show no such table manners, the Rook was very gentle – luckily for me as that beak could caused some serious damage if intended!

All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2018 ©


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Val says:

    How lovely (and I’m very relieved to read you were wearing gloves!!) There’s a non-fiction book by Esther Woolfson about a Rook (called ‘Chicken’) that she kept (rescued, I think – long time since I read it) as well as some other Corvids. You might enjoy it or find it interesting, it’s called ‘Corvus: A Life With Birds.’


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