From the Archive: The rook and the rookie come face to face

It just goes to show that, as the celebrated biologist EO Wilson wrote, when you’ve seen one ant, one bird, one tree, you have not seen them all. There’s no denying that, with those baggy-trousered leg feathers and that honking great bill, rooks aren’t exactly the cutest corvids on the block. Although, between you and me, I’d prefer a bite of a Big Mac any day.”

The expression “bird brain” doesn’t look so clever any more, now that we know exactly how smart our feathered friends – especially those of the crow family – can be. Beak extended, he may be giving the rook a stern telling off. This image turns the tables by having the bolshie baby talk back. Get your beak out of my lunch!”

“Well, give us a go of your fork then. This rook certainly knew which side its bread was buttered when it helped itself to a generous mouthful of the picnic lunch belonging to the baby, who is named in the caption as 21-month-old Karl Daly from Enniskerry, Co Wicklow. A book, The Times We Lived In, with more than 100 photographs and commentary by Arminta Wallace, published by Irish Times Books (€19.99), is available from and from bookshops They are, however, famously gabby birds. But the best thing about our picture is that it celebrates the joy of the unexpected encounter. For the sake of retrospective health and safety, we can only hope not. We go to the zoo to see an Abyssinian hornbill, only to find ourselves up close and personal with an ordinary, everyday rook. You can buy this and other Irish Times images from “Oi! Young Karl is fearlessly making eye contact with a wild creature that is almost as big as he is. Or is he waiting – baby bird-style – for his new chum to share? The photo was taken at Dublin Zoo – where, if feathers are to be ruffled, they might reasonably be expected to come in a more exotic set of colours. Anyone who has spent any time near a rookery will have experienced their lengthy busybody conversations as they caw and call back and forth from the tops of tall trees in an apparently endless avian soap opera.