Jackdaw: facts & profile


I am particularly interested in garden wildlife which is why I did my Master's degree with a focus on "animal ecology". I am convinced that beneficial insects and wildlife are a sustainable and effective alternative to many of the products we use on our plants. I am also a passionate birdwatcher and rarely go for a walk without my binoculars.

Favourite fruit: kiwi, apple and redcurrant
Favourite vegetables: tomatoes and green beans

Know how to identify a jackdaw nest? And what does a baby jackdaw look like? Here are all the jackdaw facts and figures you need to know!

A jackdaw looks round
Jackdaws are our smallest crows [Photo: Kuttelvaserova Stuchelova/ Shutterstock.com]

The jackdaw (Corvus monedula), also called daw, is often overshadowed by its well-known relative, the carrion crow. In fact, it is easy to forget that the jackdaw is its own species; lively and intelligent and always closely associated with humans, they are staples of our culture, having settled alongside humans long ago. Even today, jackdaws breed mainly in buildings and make use of orchards, grain fields and other human artifacts. Want to know what a jackdaw looks like, how to give it a home and recognise its unique personality? Look no further.

How to recognise the jackdaw

Like most crows, jackdaws have black plumage. However, they are smaller than most of their relatives, about the size of a pigeon. It is also easy to spot their blue-grey neck and bright, light blue eyes. Unfortunately, it is impossible to distinguish a male jackdaw from a female with the naked eye.

A jackdaw perches
You can recognise jackdaws from their blue-grey neck and light blue eyes [Photo: Andrej Chudy/ Shutterstock.com]

How to tell the difference between a jackdaw and a carrion crow

Jackdaws are significantly smaller than carrion crows. They are also less elegant, being so stocky and compact. The jackdaw’s uniqueness lies in its blue-grey neck and light blue eyes. Carrion crows, on the other hand, are solid black.

A carrion crow stands
Carrion crows, in contrast to jackdaws, are solid black [Photo: Erni/ Shutterstock.com]

How to recognise a young jackdaw

Very young jackdaws are difficult to spot. They are solid black and look similar to other crow chicks. However, their necks quickly become blue-grey, and the young birds soon resemble their parents – although it takes some time for the young jackdaw’s neck to become as vibrant as a mature jackdaw’s. Nevertheless, you should always be able to recognise young jackdaws by their bright, light blue eyes.

A puffed up jackdaw chick
Young jackdaws lack the blue-grey neck [Photo: Natalia van D/ Shutterstock.com]

How to recognise a jackdaw egg

Jackdaws lay light blue eggs about 3cm in size and are covered with dark spots. Usually, jackdaws lay between four and six eggs per brood in a nest of small sticks, bits of bark, plant fibres, hair and soil.

What is the perfect habitat for jackdaws?

When it comes to territory, jackdaws look out for two things: wide, open spaces that will provide food, and cavities and hollows in which they can build their nests. It will come as no surprise that this usually leads jackdaws to arable fields and meadows near urban areas. Jackdaws also frequent quarries and cities that have a vast amount of green space.

Jackdaws like to live close to people [Photo: Agnieszka Rybkiewicz/ Shutterstock.com]

Where do jackdaws build their nests?

Jackdaws breed in cavities. Before urbanisation, this would have been crevices in rock. Nowadays however, the crow makes use of old buildings, claiming chimneys and cracks in the wall as their own. But don’t worry just yet – natural tree hollows and birdhouses are still a popular choice. Both male and female jackdaws take care of nest building. In fact, it can become a family affair if young, year-old jackdaws have not yet found a mate.

Two jackdaws look out from a tree hollow
Jackdaws breed in cavities and hollows [Photo: David Kalosson/ Shutterstock.com]

When is breeding season for jackdaws?

Jackdaws breed between April and June and they raise one brood a year. Having laid the eggs, females will incubate their offspring for up to 20 days and are supplied with food by their partner. Hatchlings are fed in the nest for four to five weeks and, after leaving the nest, are supported by their parents for as long as necessary. Notably, jackdaws have monogamous, often life-long relationships.

Where do jackdaws spend winter?

Domestic jackdaws spend the whole year in the UK, never normally travelling more than a few kilometres, even in the height of winter.

A jackdaw stands on a pipe in snow
Jackdaws are easy to spot in the snow [Photo: Kazakov Maksim/ Shutterstock.com]

What does a jackdaw’s song sound like?

Jackdaws have an indistinct song. It consists of a kind of rough chatter that has little to no structure. Occasionally however, jackdaws will imitate other birds or copy the sounds they hear around them. They are often heard in groups or in flight; the “kya-kya-kya” sound is probably the easiest to identify. And their warning call is also hard to miss. Listen for a stretched “Tscharrrr”.

Help the jackdaw!

With the renovation of old buildings, there are fewer nesting sites for jackdaws. Read on to find out how you can support our jackdaws and give them a home in your garden.

What do jackdaws eat?

Jackdaws are omnivores. They feed on insects, spiders, worms and other small animals, as well as carrion, fruit and berries. In winter, jackdaws often look for food in fields with other crows, such as the carrion crow and the rook.

A jackdaw eats pizza on a street
Even jackdaws love pizza! [Photo: Jarkko Jokelainen/ Shutterstock.com]

Jackdaws love bird feeders and will use them in winter and during breeding season. And they aren’t fussy. Jackdaws will gorge on just about any bird food or grain you put out.

Which bird boxes are suitable for jackdaws?

Provide a home for jackdaws in your garden by building your own birdhouse – it’s easy! It should be completely enclosed, have a 28 x 17cm base, and a 15cm wide entrance hole. Be sure to install it several metres from the ground, away from cats and other predators.

We’ve collected some tips on building your own bird box.

A jackdaw looks out from a birdhouse
Jackdaws are increasingly dependent on birdhouses [Photo: Jarkko Jokelainen/ Shutterstock.com]

In addition to a feeding station, jackdaws also enjoy a rich, natural food supply. You can create a jackdaw paradise with an insect-friendly garden. Avoid using chemical pesticides, as these often contain toxins that not only kill off insects, but can also poison your garden birds.

Also consider adding a bird bath to your garden. Whether it’s a pond, stream or bowl, many a feathered visitor will thank you on hot, summer days. Be sure to clean your bird bath regularly to prevent the spread of infectious disease. On hot days, it’s actually best to clean it daily.

Jackdaws are not the only bird to enjoy a little refreshment–so will all your other garden birds, such as the long-tailed tit and the dunnock.