Identification

The jackdaw is the smallest member of the crow family in Britain. At first it may appear to be all black, however it is actually a dark grey colour, with a paler nape extending around the sides of the neck. One useful distinguishing feature is a striking pale blue eye. They also have a characteristically jaunty gait when they walk. Their call can be a squeaky but loud 'jack-jack', or a hoarse cawing.

Size

30-34cm (12-14in) long. 64-73cm (25 ½-29in) wingspan.

Distribution

Jackdaws can be found all over Britain except for the Scottish Highlands. They are scarcer in upland areas. Many Scandinavian jackdaws overwinter in the UK, increasing our winter populations of the bird.

Status

Jackdaws are common and widespread, and indeed populations are believed to have increased by 50 percent since the mid-1970s. Although wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, many jackdaws are killed under general licence by authorised persons, which includes landowners or occupiers or anyone acting with their permission. This is a population control strategy as jackdaws are considered by many to be a farmland pest.

Habitat preference

Jackdaws can be found in a range of habitats such as fields, parks, gardens and woodland. They can often be found breeding on sea cliffs, as well as in holes in buildings.

Where to find them in the garden

Look for nesting jackdaws in cavities in buildings, or in hollow trees. The best time to see jackdaws in the garden is in the spring breeding season, when they take the opportunity to find food for their young. You are most likely to see jackdaws hopping on the ground as they forage, and you may also see them flying overhead, often performing quite acrobatic displays.

Role in the garden

Jackdaws eat a variety of foods, often taking invertebrates and thus helping to control populations of potential pest species. They may even take the occasional small bird, which may be unwelcome to some people but is a natural feature of population regulation. They also feed on seeds, nuts and fruit.