Not so much the ‘Thieving Magpie’ as the ‘Thieving Jackdaw’!

"This will do nicely as nest lining!"

“This will do nicely as nest lining!”

In 1817 the Italian composer Rossini penned his famous opera ‘La Gazza Ladra’ – ‘The Thieving Magpie’.  Visiting the Scottish Wool Centre in Aberfoyle on Sunday, we saw an unexpected sight:  not a thieving magpie, but a thieving jackdaw!

In a small paddock behind the centre, a patient pony was grazing quietly in the warmth of the spring sun, while a busy jackdaw was perched on his back, pulling out hair to use to line its nest. Some of the pecks looked very sharp, but the pony didn’t seem to mind too much. However, it did look as though he was going to have a bald patch before long!

That has to hurt!!

Jackdaws are intelligent and gregarious birds and live together in small colonies. Watching this one made me realise that they’re also clever at acquiring nest material. And he wasn’t alone: three or four other jackdaws were waiting nearby to see if they too could get some soft hair to line their nests.  At that point, though, the pony decided it had had enough, and moved away.

Sweeney Jackdaw, the Demon Barber!

Sweeney Jackdaw, the Demon Barber!

I found another example of their intelligence on the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) website, where I read that a tame jackdaw had once been trained by some Italian thieves to steal money from cash machines!!

But back to our clever jackdaw in Aberfoyle. While watching him at work, someone remarked that this was a rather offbeat way to get a hair-cut, having ‘Sweeney Jackdaw, the Demon Barber’ do your hair!  I can only say that I’m very glad my hairdresser uses scissors!


Watch here as the jackdaw helps himself to some nest lining!