Jackdaw or Daw

Birds of the Corvus Genus

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The name Daw (Old Low Germ. Daha) probably comes from the bird's cry, as seems also to be the nickname Jack commonly prefixed.  Perhaps the earliest instance of nicknaming birds is to be found in Langland's Piers the Plowman, written soon after 1400, where the SPARROW is called "Philip", and the practice subsequently extended.  Swift in his Description of a Salamander thus mentions it :-

"As mastiff-dogs in modern phrase are
Call'd Pompey, Scipio, and Caesar ;
As pyes and daws are often stil'd
With Christian nicknames like a child."

There are two species known as Jackdaws.  The Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) is the species found in the UK, Europe and Western Asia.  The normal glossy black plumage of the Corvidae is in the Eurasian Jackdaw when adult, diversified by its having the hinder part of the head of a delicate ashy-grey colour.  It is only the hinder part of the head that wears this light tint, a fact which renders improbable that the "russet-pated choughs" of Shakespeare Midsummer Night's Dream Act iii Scene. 2 were birds of this species (see Chough).

The second species, the Daurian Jackdaw  (Corvus dauuricus) inhabits the southernmost areas of east-Siberia, Mongolia and the whole of China.  Not only has the Daurian Jackdaw a broad collar of a pure white, but the lower parts of the body are white also.

The Eurasian Jackdaw is the smallest as well as one of the best known in the UK of the Corvidae family (Crow and its relatives).  Although the Jackdaw is much less numerous than the ROOK, it inhabits the outskirts of even large towns as well as the country.  From its diverting manners and its aptitude for imitating the sounds it hears, it is sometimes kept in captivity more or less modified.

In its natural state the Jackdaw differs from most of the Corvidae in the choice it makes of breeding-quarters, nearly always placing its nest in some hollow tree or convenient corner in a building - a church-tower (from its being seldom ascended) especially affording a secure position. It will equally make itself a home in a rabbit-burrow, a sea-girt cliff, or contrive to find a suitable receptacle for its progeny among the sticks that form the base of a huge Rook's nest which has been accumulating for years.

Gamekeepers often view it with great contempt, for it is undoubtedly ready to rob the eggs of other birds when occasion offers.  But it is as omnivorous as a Rook in feeding, and there is scarcely a flock of Rooks that is not accompanied by more or fewer Jackdaws, who act as the light company of the Rook's heavier regiment.


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