The Silver Jackdaw of Bratislava

Excerpt from the book Animals Evolution Avoided. This book describes 40 animals that ought to exist but don’t, because I made them up.


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 for this is 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 people who have previously had either coins or rings stolen by the jackdaws. 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 grassy 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

I was born in Leicester. I attended school in Yorkshire and University in Liverpool. I have been to 93 countries and territories including The Balkans and Armenia in 2015, France and Slovakia in 2016, and some of the Greek Islands in 2017. My sense of humour is distilled from The Goons, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Midsomer Murders. I love being creative in my writing and I love writing about travelling. My next books are a travel book about Greece and a novel inspired by Brexit.

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