RookIt's no coincidence that the speaker in "Rook" calls on these birds when seeking knowledge of the present, the future, and the hereafter. All of the crow family - rooks, crows, ravens, magpies, and jays - are associated with hidden knowledge and foretelling the future. The well-known counting rhyme, applied in different variants to both magpies and crows, is an example of this:

One for sorrow, two for joy
Three for a girl, four for a boy
Five for silver, six for gold
And seven for a secret that can't be told.

As this rhyme makes clear, crows and their kin are augurs, keepers of secrets and mysteries. The Roman author Suetonious recounts the tale of a prophetic crow, a pet of the Emperor Domitian, who could talk, but would only say "All will be well." Because of their habit of saying "cras! cras!" ("Tomorrow! Tomorrow!"), crows also became a symbol of hope - as well as procrastination.

The crow family is also associated with death, both because of their black feathers and their habit of feeding on carrion. Ravens and crows alike were considered to be incarnations of the Valkyries, Norse warrior goddesses that roamed the battlefield searching for the souls of the dead, and the raven was a symbol for the Morrigan, the Irish death-goddess.

There are no specific legends associated with rooks, but according to author Neil Gaiman, they do have one mystery. A group of rooks is known as a parliament, due to their habit of forming large assemblies during which one bird will seem to "speak" or orate at length. Afterwards, the bird is either left alone or torn to pieces. Gaiman claims that the lone bird is telling a story; the other birds' reaction is their form of criticism.

With all of this in mind, it's not surprising that Andy Partridge should have chosen to depict the rook and the crow as possessors of hidden knowledge. Other musicians have done likewise, both in modern times and in the past, as in Schubert's song "Die Krähe" ("The Crow"), a song very similar to "Rook" both thematically and in its sad, bleak mood, or as in Robyn Hitchcock's song "The Black Crow Knows":

If you want to know what the future holds
The black crow knows. 
It's significant, though, that both in Schubert's song and in "Rook," the mysterious birds never answer the questions put to them; they choose to keep their secrets.

(Corvus frugilegus), the most abundant Eurasian bird of the crow familyCorvidae. It resembles the carrion crow in size (45 cm [18 inches]) and in black coloration, but the adult rook usually has shaggy thigh feathers and has bare white skin at the base of its sharp bill. The species ranges discontinuously from England to Iran and Manchuria and is migratory. Rooks nest in large colonies (rookeries) in tall trees, sometimes within towns. Their nests are solidly constructed of twigs and soil and are used year after year. The birds lay three to five light greenish, heavily speckled eggs, and the young are able to fly about a month after birth. Rooks dig for larvae and worms in meadows and plowed fields and may pull up grain seedlings and young potato plants.
Some types of instinctive behaviour, while showing a rigid core of fixed action pattern, are still modifiable by conditioning and other learning processes (see above). A good example is provided by the nest-building behaviour of many birds: after the breeding female has chosen a nest site, she finds and deposits sticks or twigs or pieces of grass there. A rook (C. frugilegus) standing on a potential nest locality with twigs held in its beak performs a downward and sideward sweeping movement that brings the material into contact with the ledge or the branches on which the nest is to be built. The moment the twig or branch carried by the bird meets resistance, the sideways movements become more vigorous and merge into a series of quick trembling thrusts (so-called tremble shoving). When the twig is in a position that offers even more resistance, the efforts become more intense until the twig wedges fast. After this consummatory achievement the bird apparently loses interest in his activities for the moment.

This bird has a mixed reputation. Their nests are associated with the approach of summer which if seen high in the tree-tops indicate fine weather, and low being wet and cold. Should the rooks suddenly leave the area it indicates that someone in the area is about to die and that no heir will be born in the family. In many European countries the rook is considered to bring good luck. To see a number of rooks perching together indicate that a storm is on the way.