Animal Emotions – Joy, Happiness and Play

This short videoclip shows one of those beautiful occasions, where we were privileged to be part of the daily lives of our wild non-human animal neighbours. Just by chance we have been able to document and record a fascinating playful interaction or variation of social play occurring between a wild young rook and a mixed group of rooks and jackdaws as well as a small flock of residential pigeons circling the area. Just a few seconds after the rook had drawn the attention of one of the approaching jackdaws, the rook decided to disengage and to follow the leaving birds.

” Social play is an excellent example of a behavior in which many animals partake, and one that they seem to enjoy immensely. Individuals become immersed in the activity, and there seems to be no goal other than to play. As Groos (1898) pointed out, animals at play appear to feel incredible freedom. ” 1

Social play observed amongst non-human animals including corvids plays an important part in the emotional lives of many non-human animal species. During our daily interactions with our corvid patients, residents and visiting wild birds, we are frequently able to observe many of these intricate nuances of their fascinating emotional lives, and even get sometimes involuntarily involved in their playfulness and cheekiness. Although many encounters we are able to witness may serve a specific purpose, a purpose we may or may not fully understand, some incidents like the playing rook in the video clip, might just be what it seems – a bird having a bit of fun, nothing more and nothing less.

Rook Hanging Upside Down


  1. Bekoff, M. (2000). Animal Emotions: Exploring Passionate Natures Current interdisciplinary research provides compelling evidence that many animals experience such emotions as joy, fear, love, despair, and grief—we are not alone. BioScience, 50(10), 861-870. ↩︎

Rook Irenaeus – An Obituary

Rook Irenaeus

It is with great sadness that we have to announce the loss of our rook Irenaeus. He came to us in June 2017 following a phone call of a kind and concerned person, who spotted Irenaeus during a heavy downpour, when he was trying to find shelter next to a pub. We went to assess the situation and eventually decided to catch Irenaeus, who we found grounded, soaking wet and cold.

Rook Irenaeus

Apart from being slightly underweight and an increased internal parasite load, Irenaeus did not show any other obvious sign of disease or injury. He has been treated accordingly and settled in very quickly into our residential rook community. Over the following weeks it became clear that Irenaeus wouldn’t fly again, at least not for longer distances, despite the lack of any physical or medical reason. 

Rook Martha – An Obituary

Corvid Isle Sanctuary

Nevertheless, Irenaeus became quickly a well regarded community member amongst our rooks. Interestingly, we also noticed that in particular young birds enjoyed Irenaeus’ proximity, possibly being attracted by his very calm and relaxed attitude towards other, but in particular young birds. Over the last days of his life Irenaeus became a little quieter than usual, but still enjoyed his food and company very much.

Rook Irenaeus

Sadly, last night Ireneaus passed away peacefully in his sleep. We don’t know how old Ireaneus was, but we think that he must have been quite old already. We are relieved that he was able to spend the last months of his life in peace and comfort enjoying in particular the close friendship to our residential rook Anthea. Irenaeus, you will be greatly missed. Rest in peace! 

Rook Martha – An Obituary

Rook Martha

It is with great sadness that we have to announce that we have lost today our rook Martha, one of our resident birds, foster parents and friend. After a very short illness Martha passed away peacefully in our arms.

Rook Martha

Martha, an adult female rook, came into our care in October 2014. She has been found grounded in a garden after having suffered a carpometacarpal fracture of her right wing. The finder took Martha to safety and cared for her over the course of the next three weeks. We have been asked to take over Martha’s care, when it became apparent that she would not be releasable. Although the fracture showed a satisfactory fracture union and alignment, the wing remained slightly drooped rendering Martha unable to fly properly. Additionally, she also developed a joint infection, which needed longterm treatment including physiotherapy. Martha made a good recovery and regained partial use of her wing allowing her to fly short distances. 

Rook Martha

Martha settled in well into our communal rook aviary, where she helped many young birds to get prepared for their second chance in live, for their release into freedom. We don’t know how old Martha was. We can only assume, based on observed social interactions with wild rooks and within the rook aviary, that she wasn’t the youngest bird anymore, when she came to us three years ago. It was a privilege to get to know her. Martha made a big difference to many birds during the three years she spent with us. Rest in peace Martha!

Wildlife Rescue – A Privilege To Interact With Sentient Beings

Rook Teal'c in our outdoor release aviary.

The encounter I am writing about repeats itself often, but every time it is a completely new and unique event. We are getting a new rescue bird patient in and are treating the animal until he or she is ready for release back into the wild. Again and again we are astonished about how quickly we are able to establish a close relationship with the bird in our care. It is always about the same ingredients: Respect, patience, understanding and love. This brief story is dedicated to all of our rescue birds, but in particular to Teal’c, a very close rook friend, who came into our care after we found him soaked, cold and orphaned sitting in a puddle on a busy main road on the Isle of Wight.

Teal'c is an orphaned rook fledgling, who recovered well after being found orphaned with signs of severe dehydration and starvation.
Rook Teal’c

Teal’c was very poorly when we took him in, and we actually didn’t believe that we would be able to save him. But Teal’c survived, grew up very quickly and made friends with all family members, but in particular with Kerstin and myself. His curiosity and urge to explore new unknown things was astonishing. Nothing would escape his notice. Everything had to be thoroughly checked and explored, which would eventually include ‘scientific’ tests like soaking and testing the impact of gravitational forces on objects of interest.

Communication Between Species

Teal’c was also very communicative, having used his language, but also beak, wings and feet to make sure his message has been understood correctly. It did always amaze us, when Teal’c was looking into our eyes and beyond, deep into our souls, as this was exactly how it felt like. He was ever so gentle, the way he communicated, showing the whole range of emotions a human could possibly show.

When he was young, it seemed that he had occasional nightmares, not being happy at all to be left alone. He had to be brought to bed, or his perch in the aviary. Gentle talking and stroking would calm him down. When he was sitting on our shoulder, then he would press his body, neck and head onto our body, until he was about to fall asleep. On the other hand, if he would not get the attention he wanted, then he would voice his disappointment and even get the odd tantrum, which also could include some gentle, well chosen, but surely noticeable physical enforcement of his desires.

Rook Teal'c is growing up quickly into an inquisitive juvenile bird.
Rook Teal’c

There are hundreds of situations and unique encounters we have had with Teal’c, but also with a variety of other bird species, all providing unequivocal proof of the highly developed intelligence and emotional life of birds in general and corvids in particular.

Time To Say Good Bye

Teal’c grew into a beautiful young Rook, far to quickly the time was passing by. He once managed to escape rather by accident then by will, but came back, as it was not the right time to depart. Late in September we eventually released the juvenile rook friends Sam, O’Neill and Teal’c. They went off together joining a local mixed corvid bachelor group. Before the three birds where about to depart, we looked again into each others eyes, and we all realised, our hearts heavy and filled with sadness, it was now the right time to let go. We knew, that we will never forget each other and that our unique bond will persist, despite us being physically separated and living our own lives.

Rook Teal'c after being released sitting in a tree and paying his previous home a visit.
Rook Teal’c

All three birds are occasionally visiting our garden, and their past temporarily home, whilst passing through on their way from the roosting trees to the fields. All three birds will start calling and interacting with us and old bird friends. But they will keep their distance, as it should be. Now they are free, back into the wild, where they belong to.