CHRISTMAS came early for a Swineshead family this year when an assortment of objects were spewed out their chimney onto their living room carpet.
But this was not an inconsiderate Santa Claus at work – it was the family’s five-year-old pet Jackdaw.
“We call him Izzy which stands for ‘is-he misbehaving’ because he’s so mischievous and loves to steal things,” the bird’s owner Monica Lawrence-Stubley told The Standard when we paid a visit.
“Things had been disappearing around the house but we didn’t know what had happened to them until they all fell out of our chimney, along with soot, twigs and moss.”
The tame Jackdaw had built the makeshift nest out of a variety of household items it had pilfered, including socks, cutlery, pens, greetings cards and utility bills.
“One day I saw him on the roof with a pair of my knickers,” said Monica, “And another time I caught him flying out the door with my cheque book in his beak.”
Caring for jackdaws and other birds of the corvid family is now second nature to Monica and husband Chris, who have two sons.
For 11 years, the family have taken in jackdaws, carrion crows and rooks that have been injured and cannot return to the wild.
They currently have 18 birds, with the majority living in two large garden aviaries.
These include a one-eyed crow called Captain Beaky, and Pecky – who likes to meow like a cat and mimic police sirens.
But it’s the home comforts for demanding Izzy who is free to come and go as he pleases, like one of the family’s four cats.
“He sits on the handle of the patio doors and chatters when he wants to come in,” said Monica. “But he sleeps inside overnight in a large macaw cage.”
Along with his one-legged crow friend Ro, who also lives inside the bungalow. Izzy is treated to toys, meaty treats, loving strokes and warm baths – the latter of which he enjoyed during The Standard’s visit.
“He’s a bit spoilt really,” said Monica as she blow-dried the wet bird while he perched on her lap.
“Somebody once described him as a toddler with wings, which we felt was very apt,” added Chris.
But unlike some toddlers, Izzy is surprisingly-well house trained and contains his mess to a small indoor ‘play pen’.
Like the other birds, Izzy is even partial to a bit of mince pie at Christmas – to go with his diet of mealworms, mince beef, scrambled egg and grapes – and was particularly keen on The Standard’s gift of nut-filled crackers.
The sneaky bird came into Monica’s care five years ago after it was seen hanging around Carlton Road Primary School in Boston.
“He seems to be attracted to children,” she said, “so we believe he must have been hand-reared as a youngster.”
Sadly, corvids, including ravens and magpies, have negative connotations for many people – being associated with old wives’ tales of bad luck, and religious ‘messengers of death’.
“They really are such intelligent, friendly birds,” said Monica, concluding: “And it’s amazing how quickly they can imprint on humans, and when they do you are completely taken with them.”