The Silver Jackdaw of Bratislava

The Silver Jackdaw of Bratislava is a little known offshoot of the Corvidae family of birds. In the summer, Silver Jackdaws migrate from the area between Bratislava and Vienna to the High Tatra mountains in Eastern Slovakia and Poland where they build nests well out of the sight of humans. The reason these jackdaws have to do this, is because these birds are the only members of the Corvidae family who are not only attracted to shiny objects, but also steal them with a shocking amount of cunning. This is why these birds are called Silver Jackdaws.

Often working in gangs of two or three, these jackdaws are extremely well organised. If someone drops a coin on the ground when walking their dog, one of the Silver Jackdaws will land on the dog’s back causing it to bark. As the owner is distracted, one of the other jackdaws will pick up the coin and take it back to the communal nest, high up in a large tree. If a cafe or restaurant has a cup or tin where customers can put their tips for the staff, silver jackdaws will fly through an open window and steal the coins and notes from the container. The coins and notes, as well as rings, aluminium foil, and even certain types of sunglasses are used to decorate the nests of the birds, each nest having a different type of decorative design.

The most important bird in the Silver Jackdaw gang is called the sentinel. This bird watches people as they go about their daily business in the villages and towns in the mountains. Silver Jackdaw sentinels recognise those people who have previously lost coins or taken their rings off in public and had them stolen. The sentinels call out to waiting jackdaws and caws instructions to them as to their possible next target. These birds will then track the person until an opportunity comes along for them to steal something shiny.

When the Silver Jackdaws fly back to the cities for the winter, they concentrate on the grassed parts of the cities and parklands where they can eat grubs and insects. At this time of year, the fledgling birds are initiated into the ways of the jackdaw gangs by being paired with experienced jackdaws, who train the younger birds to spot an opportunity to steal a coin or other carelessly discarded shiny object, even when that object is just a ring pull from a can of pop.        

Published by Julian Worker

Julian was born in Leicester, attended school in Yorkshire, and university in Liverpool. He has been to 94 countries and territories and intends to make the 100 when travel is easier. He writes travel books, murder / mysteries and absurd fiction. His sense of humour is distilled from The Marx Brothers, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Midsomer Murders. His latest book is about a Buddhist cat who tries to help his squirrel friend fly further from a children's slide.

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