Ow.

Jas is a juvenile jackdaw. Although I refer to her as “she” for convenience; I have no idea of her gender but think that she may be a boy, due to her dominant behaviour. I’ll get her DNA tested at some point.

I was given her last year by a friend, who bought her from someone who incubated and raised her,  before selling her on as a crow. I am quite horrified that people do such things, but that is immaterial to tonight’s tale. My good friend had no reason to disbelieve the story she was told about Jas’s beginnings or species, she is quite naive and came to corvids like many of us, when she picked up an injured baby crow, Jimmy; and took her home to look after. She has not had Jimmy very long and thought that the youngster would benefit from the company of her own kind, so started to search for a companion. Jimmy has recently been DNA tested so we know that she is a girl.

It’s only since Crow came to live with me that I can tell baby corvids apart, so although the bird was obviously a jackdaw to me, when I went to pick her up, her carer argued that she was definately a crow, as that is what she had been told by Jas’s vendor. I would have been equally fooled a few years ago.

My friend only had Jas for only a few days before she realised that she could not cope with such a hooligan. Jas, having been incubated in a plastic box and brought up by a human, never seeing her natural parents; has no idea what she is. She is only young, less than a year old. Jackdaws’ eyes change to silver when they get to about a year old; I expect Jas’s eyes to change to their adult colour soon.

Jackdaws live in huge colonies, and youngsters are brought up to know the rules and hierarchies of their very large families. Jas has never been checked for her ways and has some terrible habits as a result. She is the avian equivalent of the toddler you sometimes see screaming for attention and biting their parent at supermarket checkouts.

By temperament she is friendly and will fly to anyone, but upon landing on your hand she will then hammer at your fingers with her beak. I discourage this by putting her back on her perch. She is only given rewards if she is on my hand, but not when she is trying to excavate the bones of my fingers. We have had a little breakthrough when she came into my bedroom to sit with me while I practised the clarinet. Perhaps it is because she does not have to compete with other birds then, but she behaved in a much more civilised manner. I never thought that my clarinet playing would be the music which hath charms to soothe the savage breast.

None of the other birds like her much. She is tiny compared to them, but she is fast and can turn on a sixpence in the air. She is aggressive and has no manners and I think that they are mostly a little afraid of her which is a pity as she wants to be friends, but has not learned how to do this. I have no doubt that she will get there eventually, but it is hard work teaching her the ropes.

At night, she likes to sit on a perch close to Mary, the macaw. All the birds have little songs and rhymes of their own which I sing to them before they go to bed. While I sing Mary her song, Jas waits patiently and quietly for her own turn, next to me. It is very sweet.

Last night I was singing Mary her song, and Jas hopped onto my hand and started stabbing my finger as usual. Mary took exception to this, most probably because it interrupted her special time rather than because she was upset on my behalf. No matter, she made her scary face at Jas who stopped immediately. Hallelujah! A bird telling another bird the rules works better than me trying to work out the correct body language.

Well, Jas sat as good as gold, which made me less careful than I usually am with the little one. After singing Mary’s song (several times as is usual), Crow started yelling for her song although it was not her turn. Like a fool I started to sing Crow’s song to her, and Jas flew straight at me and stabbed me in the eye. There does not seem to be any real damage, but oh; does it hurt!

It is completely my own fault. Apart from the fact that Jas could have reasonably expected her own song at that point, I know that she does not like Crow’s song, which I usually only sing to Crow when Jas is elsewhere, I am usually much more on my guard with Jas, and ought to have realised that it was only Mary keeping her in check and could not last beyond Mary’s night -time ritual. A very painful lesson and one I will not forget in a hurry.

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