Rook: the bird profiles


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

Could you tell a rook from a crow? And how loud is a rook really? Here’s everything you should know about the rook.

A rook
Rooks are widespread throughout the UK

Rooks (Corvus frugilegus) are often mistaken for crows. The two corvids do look similar but are quite different, particularly in their breeding habits. Rooks tend to inhabit farms, flocking together in large groups to search for food. Read on to find out how to distinguish a rook from a crow and what these loud birds really get up to!

Rook: key facts

SizeAbout 21-49cm
WeightAbout 500g
Breeding seasonMarch-June
LifespanUp to 20 years
HabitatFarms and estates
Food preferencesSeeds, insects, berries and fruit
ThreatsDecline in natural habitat and food supply, Displacement by humans

How to recognise the rook

Rooks can grow up to 50cm tall and are characterised by their pitch-black, shiny feathers. The base of a rook’s long, strong beak is light and bare, starkly contrasting to the beak’s dark tip and the rest of the rook’s plumage. You should be able to spot this light-based beak from a distance, especially when the rook is in flight. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to distinguish male and female rooks with the naked eye.

Two rooks perch on some wires
The base of the rook’s beak is light, in contrast to its dark plumage [Photo: Vishnevskiy Vasily/]

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

To distinguish between rooks and carrion crows, take a look at the beak. While the base of the rook’s beak is bare and light-coloured, the crow’s is covered with fine black feathers, making the crow’s face appear dark and monotone.

A crow perches on a branch
The base of a carrion crow’s beak is dark and feathered [Photo: Rudmer Zwerver/]

How to recognise a young rook

A young rook’s beak has fine feathers at its base and isn’t nearly as bright or large as an adult’s. As such, young rooks are easily mistaken for carrion crows. To spot the difference, look out for the rook’s straight, pointed beak. The crow’s beak is strong and arched.

How to recognise a rook egg

A close-up of a young rook‘s face
Young rooks have a feathered beak [Photo: Denys R/]

Rook eggs are about 4cm long, green and occasionally covered with dark spots all over. The eggs are laid in a large nest made of twigs, which is padded with various materials.

Three rook eggs in a nest
Rooks lay 3 to 6 eggs [Photo: Vishnevskiy Vasily/]

What is the perfect habitat for rooks?

Rooks ideally search for food in open areas where the vegetation has been cut short; this usually means agricultural land. Just as important for the rook however, are nearby nesting sites. These can be trees that are grouped together, or sections of woodland area.

Where do rooks build their nests?

Rook couples work together to construct free-standing nests in the tree-tops. Rooks are social birds, and like to breed in large colonies. This can result in several hundred nests congregating at a colony site.

Lots of rook nests in the tree tops
Rooks breed in colonies [Photo: LFRabanedo/]

When is breeding season for rooks?

Rooks breed usually once between March and June. They tend to have lifelong, monogamous partners.

The mother incubates her eggs for 16-18 days, rarely leaving the nest, while she is fed by her partner. Once hatched, rook chicks remain in the nest for four weeks, fed by both parents, before they are large enough to explore. Having left the nest, the squabs will continue to receive food from their parents for some time.

Where do rooks spend winter?

Rooks are part of a family of birds whose populations split; some will migrate south for the winter, whilst the rest stays put. In the UK however, rooks tend to stay over winter, with migration occurring only in central Europe.

A rook in winter
UK rooks remain within the UK over Christmas [Photo: Nick Vorobey/]

What does a rook’s song sound like?

Like all corvids, the rook has a croaky, unmelodic call. Compared to carrion crows, however, rooks are even hoarser and throatier. In a colony, large flocks of rooks can be deafening.

Help the rook!

It is highly unlikely that a flock of rooks will colonise your garden. Nevertheless, isolated birds may venture in, in search of food. Here, we’ll explain how you can prepare yourself.

What do rooks eat?

Rooks are omnivores, feeding on plants and animals. In spring and summer, rooks tend to hunt for worms, snails, insects and other small animals in and amongst fields and meadows that have been cut. In the colder months, the rook’s diet consists mainly of seeds, particularly grains.

Rooks flock on farmland
Rooks often flock to farms in large numbers [Photo: Vishnevskiy Vasily/]

Rooks do use bird feeders, as long as they offer grain.

How can I support rooks even more?

Besides bird food, it is always a good idea to create a natural food supply in your garden by planting native flowers, shrubs and bushes. The seeds and berries they produce will support the birds directly, whilst the habitats they provide for insects and small animals will be much appreciated by all your garden birds. An insect-friendly garden is a bird-friendly garden!

To protect insect populations, avoid chemical sprays. They can poison not only the insects but the birds as well. A little wildness and diversity in your garden will do a lot of good!

Blue tits are also fans of insect-friendly gardens, take a look!