Family Crows and Jays (Corvidae)

Least Concern

Rook (Corvus frugilegus)


French: Corbeau freux German: Saatkrähe Spanish: Graja

Corvus frugilegus


, 1758,

Europe = Sweden


Molecular study#R indicates that nominate race forms a clade with C. hawaiiensis; further study needed. Races may well merit treatment as separate species, but, although breeding ranges not known to meet (200 km apart at nearest points), intermediates are said to occur in foothills of Altai and Sayan Mts; calls very similar. Proposed races tschuii (Gilgit, in N Pakistan) and ultimus (Russian Altai) average smaller and finer-billed than other taxa, but differences seem trivial and both included in nominate; populations of E Siberia, Mongolia and NE China described as race centralis, tending to be slightly larger and with a more purplish sheen than pastinator, but differences slight and clinal. Two subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. f. frugilegus Linnaeus, 1758 – Western Rook – from S Sweden, S Norway and W Finland, British Is, France and Spain E across Europe (N of Alps) and W Siberia (N to 60° N) to R Yenisey and NW foothills of Altai and, in S, to Asia Minor, Armenia, Azerbaijan and NW Iran, patchily N through Caucasus region (avoiding mountains) to S Russia, and from S Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and N Turkmenistan E to foothills of Tien Shan in Kyrgyzstan and extreme NW China (W Xinjiang). N populations migrate S to Mediterranean Basin and Middle East E across Iran to Afghanistan, NW China and NW Indian Subcontinent.
  • C. f. pastinator Gould, 1845 – Eastern Rook – from C Siberia and N Mongolia (from upper R Yenisey) E to SE Russia (Amur Basin S from Yakutsk) and in C & NE China (E from E Qinghai and E Gansu, S to N Zhejiang). N populations migrate to E China, Korea and S Japan.
  • Introduced (nominate race) in New Zealand, chiefly in S part of North I and Canterbury area of South I.

    Descriptive notes

    44–47 cm; 325–571 g; wingspan 81–99 cm. Relatively small-headed, short-legged crow with low-slung belly, loose tibia feathering ("baggy shorts") and... read more


    Typical call a hoarse, rasping, slightly rising "gaarrkh", uttered at varying pitches,... read more


    Mixed farmland in fairly flat open country, typically in lowland riverine plains, with stands of... read more

    Food and feeding

    Omnivorous, but less of a carrion-feeder than are many other crows. Main food items include earthworms (Lumbricidae) and grain; wide range... read more


    Egg-laying begins early to mid-Mar in Britain, early Apr in C Europe but not until mid-Apr in Moscow region, and early May in Omsk region (... read more


    Resident over W & S parts of range; migratory in N & E. Ringing recoveries indicate... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Nominate race abundant, and also well studied. Colonial nesting makes it an easy bird to census, the most recent figures for Europe (... read more

    Recommended citation

    Madge, S. (2020). Rook (Corvus frugilegus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 February 2020).