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Science
THE LIVING WORLD
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Sunday 06:35-07:00
The Living World is a gentle weekend natural history programme, presented by Lionel Kelleway, which aims to broadcast the best, most intimate encounters with British wildlife.
nhuradio@bbc.co.uk
LISTEN AGAINListen 25min
Listen to 16 March
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LIONEL KELLEWAY
Lionel Kelleway
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Sunday 16 March 2008
A Rook. ©John Harding/BTO
A close up of a Rook.
© John Harding/BTO

Rooks and a Winter Roost
Lionel Kelleway joins ornithologist David Harper and gamekeeper Joe Cullum in Norfolk for one of Britain’s best wildlife spectacles as hundreds of thousands of rooks gather at dusk to roost for the night.

The Rook is one of our most familiar and widespread birds. With nearly one million pairs in Britain, it is only absent from upland areas and treeless islands off the west coast of Scotland, though it has been able to find suitable trees to nest on Shetland and on Lewis in the Western Isles.

Rooks are Corvids, closely related to Crows. They have bare, greyish-white faces, thinner beaks and peaked heads than carrion crows. They are very sociable birds, and you're not likely to see one on its own. They feed and roost in flocks in winter, often together with jackdaws.

In a woodland in Norfolk, up to 80,000 rooks gather to roost in Autumn and Winter making this the biggest roost in Britain. It’s also an ancient roosting site, thought to be mentioned in the Domesday book. The sight and sound of so many birds coming together is one of the Nature’s best wildlife spectacles.

As the afternoon light fades, birds fly to towards the roost from all directions, and first gather on the ground and fall silent. Then at some signal, they take to the air and swirl in huge flocks around the tops of the trees before pouring into the roost with a great cacophony of sound.

As Lionel and his companions watch the rooks, Joe Cullum who has been neighbour to these birds for many years offers a personal insight into what its like to live next to several thousand rooks, and David Harper sheds light on the advantages of social living, the habits and lifestyle of the Rook and their changing relationship with man over the centuries.
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