Why City Jackdaw?

Birds. I like birds.

I am not a birdwatcher, and try to refrain from twitching. But when out and about I try to take notice of what is around me, whether I am walking along the coast, through the woods, or down the street. Birds pay no heed to our borders and our boundaries. They are everywhere. I like that sense of freedom.

 Corvidae is the latin name for the family of birds that includes Crows, Ravens, Jays and Magpies.  These are considered to be among the most intelligent of birds. Crows can do all sorts of things, regularly featuring on YouTube. Look them up. Google ‘Crow funerals.’ Crows dance. Use tools. Fly upside down (really!)  Recognise human faces. Upset a crow and its personal. I have been out and about and found a Crow studying me. Figuring me out. (Good luck says my wife.)

Jackdaws are the smallest of the Corvidae family. Maybe pushed to the margins by its larger cousins. They can be shy. Inquisitive. Raucous. Riotous.

But smart.

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In Celtic tales they sometimes spoke.

Generally wary of people in the forest or countryside, they are much tamer in urban areas. I am exactly the same since watching Deliverance.

‘This bird is considered sacred because it frequents church steeples and builds its nest there. It is said to be an innocent bird, though given to carrying off things and hiding them in out-of-the-way places. When ignorance of a fault is pleaded, it is a common saying, “I have no more knowledge of the fact than the Devil has of the Jackdaw.” The Devil evidently will have nothing to do with this bird, because it makes its home in the church steeple and he hates the church and everything belonging to it.’

–  Wales, Folklore, Myths and Legends.

City Jackdaw was a weekly penny magazine that was published in Manchester from 1875 to 1880.

I first came across this publication when I was reading a book about those oh so nice Scuttler boys of Victorian Manchester. The hoodies of their day, what was described as Britain’s first youth cult emerged from the slums and degradation of industrial Manchester, this fair city in which I now live, in a fury of swinging belt buckles and thrusting knives.

City Jackdaw advertised itself as a humorous and satirical journal. Its subject matter was broad, covering all things current.  Poetry, articles, sections on the theater and ‘Claws of the Week’ were regular features. With many advertisements, covering the front and back covers both inside and out, sometimes other pages as well. Twelve pages long, it was illustrated with plates.

I discovered it at a time when I was looking for a title for this blog, and I appreciated the synchronicity. It seemed to bring together many of the subjects I am interested in- poetry, literature, history, current affairs, and in its very title joins together my love of the natural world, with that of my urban surroundings, rooted as the original magazine was in this very place where many generations of my ancestors walked, and possibly scuttled, along these northern streets I know so well.

There is a great line from Birds of Britain about Jackdaws, which I think could also equally apply to some of those people of  19th Century Manchester, highlighting two similar aspects of our distinct species’:

-‘They may be rogues, but they are intelligent rogues.’ 

And so- City Jackdaw.

Look forward to seeing you.


17 thoughts on “Why City Jackdaw?

  1. Birds are fascinating. I appreciated what you said about how they don’t observe borders. They definitely go where they please (and sadly “go” on my windshield sometimes). I discovered your blog through a comment you made at Bite Size Canada. Welcome to the blogging world! I started recently myself. Good luck with your blog!


    • I guess when you gotta go you gotta go! Can’t stand on ceremony or border observance.
      Thanks for the welcome, and as a fellow new starter I wish you luck too.


  2. Appreciate this treatment on your blog name! You’ve got to check out this local-to-me author who is one of our resident birders here in Seattle, with a special affinity for crows. She has a wonderful way if addressing the tension of urban/nature landscapes. This book is a favorite!


    • Hi, in the act of re-blogging this post for my 300th anniversary post, I noticed that I did not link my reply to your original comment (see below) so you may not have seen it. I’m sure you’ve not lost any sleep over it, but I don’t want to appear ignorant 🙂 Three hundred posts in, I’m learning !


  3. Hi, I have read that book-it’s such a small world! The synchronicities in life that makes connections between the different areas (as we divide them) of life continue to amaze me.
    Some of the information I referred to I discovered in that book. Another favourite was Findings, by Kathleen Jamie. I’ve got her other one Sightlines, but haven’t read that yet.
    Thank you for your interest.


  4. I moved to western australia 1 1/2 years ago and the presence of the birds has been overwhelming, especially the magpies and crows/ ravens. they seem closer to dinosaurs than animals, very calculating eyes and complete disregard for human presence, as though we are just a fleeting presence that will soon be gone. the birds will remain far longer i suspect. great to hear stories of a fellow bird appreciator


    • Ever since watching Jurassic Park, when I watch a large bird such as a magpie or crow hopping around, I cannot help but think of a t-rex, and how much or how little it may have resembled their gait. On a much larger-and terrifying-scale of course.
      As for ‘fellow bird appreciator’, not everybody is! Read my post ‘Enough With The Birds’ from April 4th.
      Thanks for your comments.


  5. Reblogged this on City Jackdaw and commented:

    As my next post was to be my 300th post, I thought it appropriate to re-blog my very first post. Go back to beginnings, when an unsteady fledgling Jackdaw first took the leap from its comfortable nest. Three hundred posts, and still trying to figure things out. Thanks for flying with me.


  6. I just reread, with pleasure, your original post. I am proud to be in the same bird family with you, jackdaw. And I appreciate your saying that after 300 posts you are still trying to figure things out. I am approaching 100 and am just as confused as I ever was. What should my blog be about? What a silly question for a magpie! We love everything! Congratulations on your consistently fine blog and reaching this milestone.


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