Black and white bird in a tree
Birds,  Nature Photo Challenge

Nothing to crow about

Even the blackest of them all, the crow, renders good service as your man-at-arms, crushing the beetle in his coat of mail. And crying havoc on the slug and snail.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

If it is the case that crows eat slugs and snails, then surely I should be glad we have so many in our neighbourhood. Our garden is plagued by snails in particular. But on the other hand, if crows do eat snails, why then that plague?!


For our Nature Photo challenge this week Denzil has set us the task of sharing images of members of the crow family. So let’s start with our local crows. These birds have rather a mixed reputation. They are, as Denzil reminds us, renowned for their high intelligence and problem-solving abilities. Some are even thought to use simple tools. But they also carry some stigma when it comes to superstitions, in particular being associated with death. There is some truth in this, as carrion crows have been known to kill weak lambs and several crow species eat carrion. But there is also a lot of myth. Some believe that when they circle in large numbers, animals or people are going to die. And it probably doesn’t help that a large group of crows is called ‘a murder of crows’!

Whatever you think of them, it seems that crows are on the rise in our area and I see them regularly in our parks. But I only have a couple of photos (and it’s raining this morning so I don’t feel tempted to go out in search of more!)


Round badge with image of a castle and magpie
Newcastle United crest 1976 – 1983
(credit nicePNG)

The Eurasian magpie is another corvid common in our local area and their screeching often wakes me up in the morning. Despite that I have a certain fondness for them. Often described as black and white, their darker feathers have a beautiful blue sheen when they catch the light. And as the symbol of ‘my’ football team, Newcastle United, how could I not like them?

Like crows, magpies are very intelligent, and also like crows there are many superstitions surrounding them. It is considered unlucky to see a single magpie alone. According to Wikipedia,

An English tradition holds that a single magpie be greeted with a salutation in order to ward off the bad luck it may bring. A greeting might be something like ‘Good morning, Mr Magpie, how are Mrs Magpie and all the other little magpies?’

And most of us grew up knowing this rhyme (or one of its regional variations):

One for sorrow,

Two for joy,

Three for a girl,

Four for a boy,

Five for silver,

Six for gold,

Seven for a secret never to be told.

The rather bedraggled magpie in the rain below was photographed in Newcastle. The remainder are from my local area, as is the one in my feature photo.


Less often seen, and much harder to photograph, are our Eurasian jays. I stalked this one in our local park for some time before I could get a half-decent shot! They are probably our best-looking corvids.

Light brown bird with blue flash on grass
Jay, Walpole Park, Ealing


Before we leave the UK I can’t resist including these young jackdaws at Studley Royal, even though they have appeared in several previous posts. Jackdaws are a little smaller than crows and I think rather more handsome!

Two grey birds perched on wooden plank
Young jackdaws, Studley Royal

Further afield

Searching my archives I found a handful of corvid shots from various trips. In Ranthambore we had several sightings of rufous treepies, one even alighting on our jeep! This treepie is native to the Indian Subcontinent and adjoining parts of Southeast Asia. It’s a rather handsome bird I think.

Also in India, but this time in Kerala, a house crow visited the grounds of our hotel near Kovalam. Wikipedia tells me this is also known as the Indian, greynecked, Ceylon or Colombo crow.

Black and beige bird perched on a rope
House crow, Kovalam, Kerala

In Glacier National Park in British Columbia we came across this blue jay, although I’m not expert enough to know which of several species he belongs to. I love the colours and wish we were lucky enough to get these beautiful birds in England!

Blue bird in a pine tree
Blue jay, Glacier NP, British Colombia

Finally in Gambia we came across this piapiac picking over a pile of oyster shells in the small village of Kubuneh. These birds eat insects and invertebrates as well as fruit, so I expect he was hoping some small remnants of oysters had been left behind by the villagers.

Brown bird with long tail on a fallen branch by white shells
Piapiac in Kubuneh, Gambia


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