Who decides in a rookery to dismantle nests that are not theirs and is there a reason for it?

We have a rookery across the road and two rooks nests in our trees. A couple of rooks have been attempting to build a nest in another tree in our garden, but three times now, the rookery birds flew across, dismantled it stick by stick and taken them back to the rookery. Is there a reason for this behaviour? Are the rooks in the wrong territory or have the gang across the road decided there are too many nests already? It seems strange that the other rooks' nests are left quite happily in the adjoining trees. The couple has now given up building and is not sitting in the tree any more.

  • Rooks (and a few other birds, incl seabirds) are known to steal nesting material from other nests. If you have a lone pair of rooks, it could be a hierarchy thing where they are lower down. Rooks are clever though and it could just be their way of saving time and effort foraging for sticks. Starting to get quite late for rooks to be nest building. 

  • Thank you for your reply - that makes sense! We are in the North of Scotland, so maybe is a bit later here for nesting birds? The other nests do seem active, so maybe this couple have left it too late!

  • I just found this quote from an article in the Irish Examiner from 2013 by Dick Warner: 'While I was researching the subject of rookeries I came across a strange story. A lady reported an eccentric pair of rooks that tried to build a nest at some distance from the colony. The other rooks repeatedly destroyed the nest and eventually killed the pair. I don’t know if I believe it, but if it’s true it throws an interesting light on the inner workings of a rook colony.' This sounds the same as what I have witnessed but fortunately, the birds have not been attacked - they are still attempting to build that darn nest! 

  • Thanks. I strongly suspect it's only partially accurate. The "lady" reporting eccentric rooks.....not sure why she chose to describe them as that. It certainly isn't unknown as you have found. To claim both adults were killed is stretching it. How would she know? Yes, attacked. Killed? Both? I don't believe that, especially because of the first part of the story.