Rook of the Month, January

This is Terence, Rook of The Month for January.

His name is not really Terence. Bird names are both unwritable and unpronounceable to humans. They also involve difficult concepts like the subtle changes in light when the first shades of rust appear in the larger leaves of the higher branches of the Horse Chestnut tree in September – in a grove in North Cork, facing South South West – on a windy day. Or the intonation of the third and most important croak (not the correct word, but there is none) of an excited early fledge the first time she (and that’s an important distinction) announces to the parliament that she has seen a new food source – and where it is.

Terence’s real name involves five small silences of the group in late summer directed towards the mate of a well-loved female when she doesn’t come home to roost of an evening. That happened the night he was hatched. She had been working a busy bit of road near Kildorrery to try to get fat for a second clutch. Rooks have about five hundred and nine types of silence that they use for different purposes. We have NO idea.

Anyway Terence was fledged in a small rookery near Mitchelstown, but he prefers the city life in winter – there’s more of a buzz he says. He summers in Curabinny in a very large gathering. Last summer he mated (his first time) with a nice hen from Crosshaven but she seems to have headed north into the county. He hopes she’ll return but… “Well, I can’t wait around for ever. I’ll have to get moving soon. Last year we had eggs by the end of February, and nests don’t build themselves, you know.” He’s confident that there will be plenty nesting material and food this year, with the storms and the mild weather.

He swears by the ploughed fields near Garretstown. “Best worms in the country, wings down” he says. Rooks don’t caw by the way. Nor any Corvids. It’s a myth. Like that menacing music whenever they appear on films or TV. Stupid humans.

Terence hopes for more respect for birds in the future and an end to pesticides in farming. He’s very concerned about climate change and the large flocks of Scandanavian immigrants coming to Ireland every winter.

“It’s not so much the thrushes and blackbirds,” he says. “They all go back up there, and they have to come down because of the cold. But the larger birds have no business here and I’ve heard of cases where they stay for the summer and even mate with Irish hens. That’s just not on.” He’s also concerned about Buzzards.

“We’ve all seen them. They came over from Scotland first and now they’re mating as far down as Carlow. They live mostly off roadkill now too – they were never much for hunting, unlike other raptors. It’s a serious issue.”

But overall, Terence seems a happy go lucky rook and he’s well-liked among the younglings in the clamour. His own five chicks all survived the winter so far and he meets them the odd time, near the water by Crosshaven. They eat mostly off the mussels there but they are getting hassle from some of the larger Hooded Crows.

Terence says he doesn’t like this picture because it makes him look juvenile, which he isn’t. He can’t wait to build a new nest this year. He has a nice tall ash tree picked out already. A few hens have been hanging around but he’s biding his time in case last year’s mate returns. He does miss her, but he’ll have to decide soon.

young rook


Novelist, short story writer, essayist, sports writer. Crime novel: Whatever it Takes due out 31 July 2020. The First Sunday in September, debut novel, published in 2018. Mercier Press, Stinging Fly, Irish Examiner, Irish Times,, Holly Bough, Honest Ulsterman, Quarryman, Silver Apples.

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