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Members of the crow family, also known as corvids, are large birds with powerful bills and a variety of raucous calls. Perhaps the most familiar these days is the magpie, with its bold black-and-white plumage. It is widely disliked because of its bold behaviour and attacks on the nests of songbirds, but it is unlikely that it is making any difference to songbird populations long term.

The all-black carrion crow is the largest corvid and breeds anywhere that it can find a large tree for its nest. It has traditionally been persecuted by gamekeepers because it is a threat to their birds' eggs and young. The rook is slimmer and a bit smaller. It nests in colonies in groups of tall trees, feeding on the surrounding farmland.

The jackdaw is smaller still, with a short bill, nesting in old buildings, old trees and on quarry faces. The jay is a secretive woodland bird, most often seen flying away into cover calling loudly, and has the most colorful plumage of all the corvids. It too will take eggs and nestlings, but it also buries acorns as a store of food for the winter, incidentally encouraging the spread of oak trees.

© Gerald Downey