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How and where to see rooks roosting

Tim Scoones Tim Scoones | 13:03 UK time, Friday, 20 November 2009

From James Smith, Simon King's producer/director for this year's Autumnwatch.

The rook and jackdaw roost Simon visited in Norfolk is by no means the only place you can witness this winter spectacle. From now until late February, when the birds' breeding season begins, possibly every rook and jackdaw in the land will be gathering at dusk and spending the night in an area of woodland, somewhere near you. It's a quintessential winter experience.

Rooks flocking in Norfolk
rook cloud

To find your local roost may require some patience, perseverance - and a bit of luck. As dusk draws near (from around 3pm onwards at this time of year) keep an eye out for rooks and jackdaws heading purposefully across the sky. Find a vantage point if you can, some high ground where you can observe the passage of a number of birds.

If possible, take a compass bearing, and then follow the birds towards their night-time roosting site. You may need to repeat this process a few times, from a number of different locations in your area. Be warned that rooks and jackdaws can travel up to 20 miles at speeds around 30 miles an hour to roosting sites, so your local roost may take some finding. But it does exist!

Though there may not be the numbers of birds that Simon saw, the aerobatic displays at both dawn and dusk are wonderful sights of the winter season, and well worth seeking out.

Rooks huddled on a telegraph wire in Norfolk
rooks huddled on wire

Our friends at the BTO have kindly given us this list of likely locations:

  • Simon was at the largest roost in the UK at Buckenham Carrs in Norfolk. Possibly as many as 80,000 birds, although this is far from certain.
  • Other large roosts can be found at Hatton Castle in Aberdeenshire, tens of thousands. Aberdeenshire as a whole is one of the best places in the UK for rook roosts with several being found around the county.
  • Northward Hill, Kent, on the Hoo, is another large roost with 5-10,000 birds
  • Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, has a roost of around 5,000 birds
  • Beyond this, there are smaller roosts around the country that are still impressive to see. The roost of around 3,000 birds at Lakenheath Fen in Suffolk is a joy to see. There will be many more like this around the country.

Simon at Buckenham Carrs
Simon watching rooks flocking

And, of course, if you discover other good places please share them below.


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