Crows are among the most intelligent of birds and can be found all over the world except southern South America, the Poles, and a few remote islands.
In the United Kingdom, there are eight resident species of crow namely jay, magpie, chough, jackdaw, rook, carrion crow, hooded crow, and raven.
Of these, four are resident breeders in Arran. These are;
the raven, a massive bird, bigger than a buzzard. In flight it shows a diamond shaped tail.
the jackdaw, the smallest, with its familiar chattering call;
and the hooded and carrion crows. These are closely related and in Arran interbreed so there are birds, whose plumage is between the two illustrated.
As for the other four, the jay, magpie, chough, and rook, there are no breeding records in Arran for any of them this century or last century. In the past twenty five years there have been two sightings of jay, five sightings of magpie, and only one sighting of chough. All breed not far away, with the chough’s strong hold on Islay. I have spoken with one person who remembers these black crows with the red hooked beak on Arran. On the other hand, magpies are very familiar birds to people living on or visiting the mainland.
What of the rook? With its greyish white face and beak, peaked head, and ragged “trousers”, it is a very common bird on the adjacent Ayrshire mainland. Yet it is an uncommon winter visitor to Arran unless of course it is being overlooked.
The next time you see a big black crow, instead of thinking “Just a crow” I encourage you to have another look. It may be a rook.