The Rook – the Bird of the Year 2024 in Croatia

The results of this vote showed us something that we who deal with nature protection sometimes forget - we are not alone in recognising the importance of each species and in desire to preserve it, even if it is black and croaky!

  • 22.11.2023.

Rook (Corvus frugilegus), RSPB

To the surprise of many, but also to the delight of ornithologists dedicated to the protection of urban biodiversity, the Bird of 2024 title in Croatia was won by the Rook (Corvus frugilegus)!

The Rook is a relative of the crow, recognizable by its black feathers, and by its cawing very well known to the inhabitants of the cities where it had to settle due to the rapid loss of habitat. Namely, the natural home of the Rook is fields where it mainly feeds in flocks on insects, small vertebrates and plant materials, while it nests in large groups in the airy crowns of tall trees near food sources. Due to the use of pesticides, the Rook is left without food, and by the disappearing of trees in agricultural areas, it is left without a place where it could build its nests. Colonies of rooks are thus forced to move to cities and their surroundings, where they seek protection from hunting and the destruction of colonies. Unfortunately, their social way of nesting (and the noise and disorder that accompanies it) is a challenge to other fellow citizens.

photo: RSPB Images

Due to their presence in many cities, many wrongly assume that their number is on the rise, but the population of Rook is actually decreasing across Europe, as they are disappearing in the areas of open habitats which they naturally inhabited. Their endangered status according to the IUCN list has changed from “Least Concern” to “Near Threatened” in the last five years. Therefore, it is necessary to approach coexistence with the Rook strategically, to shape the urban space in order to reduce conflicts with citizens, and to work on securing and protecting nesting places away from human settlements. In this way we are fighting against the loss of another once common and widespread species important for open habitats.

The ornithological community in Croatia, on initiative of the Association Biom from Zagreb (BirdLife Croatia) and the Croatian Society for the Protection of Birds and Nature from Osijek, nominated three bird species this year for the Bird of the Year 2024 selection, and participation in the selection was open to the public via voting on the Biom website from November 15 to November 22, 2023. Traditionally are nominated species that need attention due to their threat, and on this occasion they were the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), the White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) and the Rook (Corvus frugilegus).

The outcome of the vote was quite unexpected, since the Golden Eagle and the White Stork are very recognizable and many people’s favorite bird species.

“We are extremely glad, and can not hide our surprise, that the winner of this year’s vote is the Rook! In our work on a strategic approach to coexistence with crows, we mostly meet people who dislike all species of crows, or are at least indifferent to them and do not want them around. The results of this vote showed us something that we who work in nature protection sometimes forget – that we are not alone in recognising the importance of each species and in desire to preserve it, even if it is black and croaky! Nature conservation begins right in our own backyard and its positive and motivating to see that many people do recognize this”, said ornithologist Iva Šoštarić from the Association Biom.

The Bird of the Year competition in Croatia was first conducted by ornithologists and organizations involved in the study and protection of birds and nature in 2016, when the Collared Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) was awarded that title. The competition was held again in 2018, which was declared the year of the tern, with a focus on the Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) and Little Tern (Sternula albifrons). In 2019, the Bird of the Year was the Common Quail (Coturnix coturnix), followed by the The European Roller (Coracias garrulus) as the Bird of the Year 2020. Participation in the selection of the Bird of the Year was opened to the general public for the first time in 2021 in the hope that the widest possible circle of people would become aware of the need for the well-being of birds, their habitats and the preservation of biodiversity in Croatia. In this way, the Bird of the Year title in 2021 was won by the Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), 2022 by the Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) and in 2023 by the Western Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus).