Rook or crow?

Yesterday’s post about jackdaws produced an email asking how to tell rooks from crows.

Good morning FoSCP,

It is helpful to know that a jackdaw has a blue eye and a grey head, but how do I tell the difference between crows and rooks? Some days the field across the road from my house seems to be full of large unidentified black birds.


Here is a useful tip, Susan: a group of crows are usually rooks and a rook by itself is usually a crow. Rooks are social birds; they feed together, nest together and fly over in noisy flocks whereas crows are much more solitary birds. So the field across the road from your house is probably full of rooks hunting worms and other invertebrates.

A flock of rooks on the left and a solitary crow on the right.

There are other difference, of course. A crow’s feathers cover its face and the top of its top of beak, whereas a rook has a bare face. A rook’s plumage is shaggier and more unkempt looking than a crow’s, and its feathers grow further down its legs so that it looks as if it is wearing baggy trousers

A feathery-faced crow on the left and a bare-faced rook to the right.

Rooks nest together in rookeries, large noisy communities with strict rules about behaviour. Rooks return to their rookeries year after year for decades, sometimes even for centuries. A pair of crows builds a solitary and untidy nest near the top of a tree.


The next time you see a large black bird in a field, take a closer look; is it a crow or a rook?

2 thoughts on “Rook or crow?

  1. Yes, when I was younger I was told its a crow if it’s wearing drainpipes and a rook if it’s wearing baggy trousers.

  2. Suzanne, The Crow, like the Raven, is all black from beak to feet, whereas the Rook has a visible white patch at the base of its bill. Ravens are bigger than Crows and have a distinctive “cronk” call.

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