GALLERY: Nutcrackers, magpies and ravens – meet Finland’s resident corvids

This month Espoo-based wildlife photographer Paul Stevens looks at Finland's resident corvids, a family of birds that includes rooks, ravens and jays.

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Nutcracker / Credit: Paul Stevens

In Finland there are eight species of bird in the Corvidae – or corvid – family. Some of these can be seen every day, in any part of the country, while others you can only find in old-growth forest, or mixed forest in certain areas.

All corvids are intelligent birds and quick to learn new tricks, especially when it comes to getting food.

The most commonly seen and perhaps most well known is the hooded crow, which is the northern subspecies to the black carrion crow. You can see it just about anywhere in Finland, from the cities to remote areas.

The hooded crow is a generalist feeder that will eat just about anything. Despite being ubiquitous it is very wary of humans and will fly away quickly of you approach too close.

Magpie / Credit: Paul Stevens

Magpies, jackdaws and ravens 

Another common corvid is the magpie, which again you can see just about anywhere in Finland, although it prefers farmland and urban forests. The magpie is a surprisingly colourful bird in sunlight as its darker feathers give off a metallic shine. Because of hunting and past persecution by humans, it is very sensitive and will depart even more quickly than a crow if you approach it.

You can find jackdaws mostly from central and southern Finland, with their northern most limit being Oulu. It is a social species and often you will hear their chatter, as they flock together to feed. Jackdaws are present in urban and rural areas, where they were persecuted in the past for the damage they cause to crops.

In recent years the population of jackdaws has increased rapidly, causing farmers to call for their numbers to be reduced. Some jackdaws also migrate, and some remain for the winter.

The largest corvid in Finland is the raven, an all-black bird that lives in forests throughout the country. Even though it is widespread, it is a scarce species and you are most likely to hear its harsh call, rather than see it. The call of the raven is distinctive and, at least to me, brings up an image of wilderness.

Ravens can often be seen feeding on carcasses, although like other corvids it is omnivorous.

European jay / Credit: Paul Stevens

Jays, nutcrackers and rooks

The jay or Eurasian jay is a colourful corvid breeding in the spruce forests of southern and central Finland. Its wing patches stand out in any light and along with its pinkish brown body make it very distinctive. Jays are well known for their habit of hiding nuts and
seeds for winter, the majority of which they will find again during harsher weather.

The nutcracker is more of a specialist than the other corvids. It eats mostly nuts and seeds, although it will supplement those with invertebrates. There are two races of nutcracker in Finland. The nominate race breeds in south western Finland and the Siberian race breeds in Vaasa and Häme.

In autumn young nutcrackers migrate around Finland and so you may see them anywhere in southern Finland.

The Siberian jay was once widespread and common in Finland. However, it is a species of old-growth forests and so has suffered greatly from modern forestry practices. Nowadays you will most likely come across it in the northern parts of Lapland.

Unlike other corvids, it is not so wary of people. In fact, it is known as the traveller’s companion and will happily share your lunch if you let them. At many picnic areas in the national parks of eastern Finland and Lapland, Siberian jays will be numerous as
hikers provide plenty of food for them. Many hikers will even have a few nuts with them just for the Siberian jays, so that they van enjoy their antics while eating their lunch.

The final species of corvid in Finland is the rook. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen rooks close enough to get a photo, as the population is small and mostly restricted to Pori and Vaasa

Corvids in the English language

There are many colourful and descriptive collective nouns in English for flocks of birds, and the corvid family is no exception.

Some of these descriptions seem unfair today but date back many centuries and have their roots in folklore; while other collective nouns for birds are more recent, and date back to only Victorian times when there was a great surge of interest from the gentry in the natural world.

If you see a group of ravens together, it’s known in English as an unkindness of ravens; while rooks are called a parliament of rooks.

There’s a murder of crows, and a scold of jays, and one that perfectly describes the last member of the family: a mischief of magpies.

This gallery comes from the lens of Espoo-based wildlife photographer Paul Stevens. Follow him on Instagram and Facebook.