24 October 2011

Jackdaws and church bells

One thing that took some getting used to when we were in Bouzy, a village in Champagne, was "living" next to a church. Churches make a lot of noise. The bells ring every 15 minutes, from 7:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m.

The church bells in Bouzy were loud. The ringing always started with three tones repeated at least once, maybe twice. Ding, daing, dong... ding, daing, dong — "three blind mice... three blind mice." That's what it sounded like to me. Then, on the hour, the bells rang out the time. At seven, that was seven loud rings. At 10, that was 10 loud rings. (Okay, we get the idea.)

The church steeple and the jackdaws we could see and hear in Bouzy

But it wasn't just the loud bell-ringing. It was also the jackdaws. They're called choucas in French. They squawk and chatter. They live around steeples and towers and another name for them is corneilles des clochers — belltower crows. The jackdaw is a Eurasian crow, and one of the smallest birds in the crow family. Maybe one of the loudest too.

Jackdaws are gregarious, meaning that there can be big flocks of them. That's what it was like in Bouzy. They swirled and swooped all around the church steeple, not really blocking out the sun but certainly weighing down the branches of the big conifers between our rental house and the church. At the slightest noise, the flock would take flight, chattering and squawking, swooping and whooping.


French Wikipedia says of jackdaws: « Le soir, les choucas peuvent se rassembler par centaines pour passer la nuit dans les arbres-dortoirs. » — "At night, jackdaws can gather by the hundreds to spend the night their arboreal dormitories." That's what we observed. English Wikipedia says: "Jackdaws are voluble birds. The call, frequently given in flight, is a metallic and somewhat squeaky, "chyak-chyak" or "kak-kak". Perched birds often chatter together, and before settling for the night large roosting flocks make a cackling noise. Jackdaws also have a hoarse, drawn-out alarm-call."


  1. Jim, those are a heck of a lot of crows!


  2. Maybe Hitchcock got his inspiration after renting a gite in Bouzy.

  3. Gite alors! Bells and crows, oh my! You'd think the villagers would tire of all the bell ringing, but maybe they like the noise.
    Our worst gite experience featured screech owls and Provence during a canicule.

    I heard that PBS recently had a good show about crows who are quite intelligent.

  4. Evelyn, here's a link to the PBS "Nature" episode that was aired. After watching it, one has a new admiration for these highly intelligent "feathered apes".


  5. Judith, LOL.

    Carolyn, you might be right.

    Evelyn, LOL too. We have a lot of crows and ravens around our house and out in the vineyard, but not jackdaws.

    Dean, I'll try to watch that. I saw and heard jackdaws in Saint-Aignan on Saturday and was reminded of the ones in Bouzy.

  6. I'll bet they're nowhere near as loud or annoying as the wood pigeons we have to put up with daily.


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