1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Jackdaw

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JACKDAW, or simply Daw (Old Low German, Daha; Dutch, Kaauw), one of the smallest species of the genus Corvus (see Crow), and a very well known inhabitant of Europe, the C. monedula of ornithologists. In some of its habits it much resembles its congener the rook, with which it constantly associates during a great part of the year; but, while the rook only exceptionally places its nest elsewhere than on the boughs of trees and open to the sky, the daw almost invariably chooses holes, whether in rocks, hollow trees, rabbit-burrows or buildings. Nearly every church-tower and castle, ruined or not, is more or less numerously occupied by daws. Chimneys frequently give them the accommodation they desire, much to the annoyance of the householder, who finds the funnel choked by the quantity of sticks brought together by the birds, since their industry in collecting materials for their nests is as marvellous as it often is futile. In some cases the stack of loose sticks piled up by daws in a belfry or tower has been known to form a structure 10 or 12 ft. in height, and hence this species may be accounted one of the greatest nest-builders in the world. The style of architecture practised by the daw thus brings it more than the rook into contact with man, and its familiarity is increased by the boldness of its disposition which, though tempered by discreet cunning, is hardly surpassed among birds. Its small size, in comparison with most of its congeners, alone incapacitates it from inflicting the serious injuries of which some of them are often the authors, yet its pilferings are not to be denied, though on the whole its services to the agriculturist are great, for in the destruction of injurious insects it is hardly inferior to the rook, and it has the useful habit of ridding sheep, on whose backs it may be frequently seen perched, of some of their parasites.

The daw displays the glossy black plumage so characteristic of the true crows, varied only by the hoary grey of the ear-coverts, and of the nape and sides of the neck, which is the mark of the adult; but examples from the east of Europe and western Asia have these parts much lighter, passing into a silvery white, and hence have been deemed by some authorities to constitute a distinct species (C. collaris, Drumm.). Further to the eastward occurs the C. dauuricus of Pallas, which has not only the collar broader and of a pure white, but much of the lower parts of the body white also. Japan and northern China are inhabited also by a form resembling that of western Europe, but wanting the grey nape of the latter. This is the C. neglectus of Professor Schlegel, and is said by Dresser, on the authority of Swinhoe, to interbreed frequently with C. dauuricus. These are all the birds that seem entitled to be considered daws, though Dr Bowdler Sharpe (Cat. B. Brit. Museum, iii. 24) associates with them (under the little-deserved separate generic distinction Coloeus) the fish-crow of North America, which appears both in structure and in habits to be a true crow.

(A. N.)