The other common bird that people regard as a pest, because it also is a scavenger, is the carrion crow. Big and white: herring gull; big and black: crow. Smaller and black and still crow-like: jackdaw – also plentiful and more sociable than crows. They have a chack-chack call and are really quite handsome when you get a good look. With their blue eyes and grey napes, they look rather like distinguished but tenacious barristers.
While I’m on the big, all-black birds, rooks are also possible anywhere in town, even in the High Street. If you’re a motorway fiend, you’ll be more familiar with them at service areas. Then you’ll be able to get close enough to see their identifying feature of a chalky white bill and surrounding face patch. At a distance, out in the country, a good rule of thumb is that a flock of crows are rooks but a group of only a few really are crows. Rooks just like being in a crowd.
Finally, in the corvids – for such are crows, jackdaws and rooks – come magpies. Black-and-white, and with outrageously long tails. If they weren’t so common and didn’t make that machine-gun noise, we would be proud to have them on our national list. Look at them again. Aren’t they striking? And the black isn’t just black; it’s iridescent.
Big and grey. That’s a wood pigeon. The jumbo jet of the avian world. It’s all over town whereas the feral pigeon tends to stick to the centre. Descended from the rock dove of north-west Scotland, the feral is smaller than the wood pigeon and comes in a bewildering variety of colour schemes. Portishead even boasts a few pure white individuals. But they never have the white neck flashes of the wood pigeon, nor show white wing-bars in flight.