“Nevermore,” Says the Raven
Aside from being a major part in Edgar Allen Poe poems and playing the main character in a few Greek mythology stories, ravens are so much more than just a plain-jane black bird. Falling into the corvid, or crow family, they’re known for their somewhat large size and rather hostile behavior. When compiled with their uncanny talent for scavenging, it's no wonder that the raven population is actually rising! They might not be as visually appealing as your typical parrot or peacock, but there is much more to them than meets the eye.
They’re the Einstein of the Bird Community!
According to a study conducted by the University of Cambridge, Ravens are capable of using tools in the same way a primate would. One of the things that set some animals apart from the rest is their ability to connect events and make decisions based on the outcomes. During the study, ravens were given a contraption that released food every time a stone was placed upon it. Once they were able to do this successfully several times, Cambridge students then readjusted the contraption. This time, the ravens would have to pick the correct size stone or the food would not be released.
After trial and error, these birds were able to quickly figure out what to do and began to continuously use the right sized stone in order to release the food. Where dogs are similar to a 2-year-old child in their level of intelligence, the raven is closer to a 4-year-old! Chimpanzees, dolphins, and rats are also capable of using their memory in this way.
Want a Talking Pet? Ravens Got You Covered!
When you hear about talking birds, it's usually the parrot that comes to mind. Well, the raven just so happens to be pretty vocal too! They generally create clicking sounds or the typical “caw” when looking for a mate or chasing away an adversary. While they may not be able to learn quite as many words and phrases as the parrot, ravens can learn to imitate words and change the tone of their voice to match the original.
Being the intelligent creatures that they are, they use their vocal abilities to mimic the sound of other animals and bird calls as well. This awesome evolutionary feat helps them distract predators and find food more easily.
Dogs Roll in Mud, Ravens Roll in Anthills
If you’ve ever stepped in an anthill, it's an experience that you’ll never forget! Mainly because being bitten over and over by hundreds of ants leaves behind a memorable sting that eventually leads to a long-lasting itch. So, why on Earth would these birds want to put themselves in such close contact with these mean little insects? Like most birds, ravens need to molt occasionally so that they can replace their old, damaged feathers with stronger and fresher ones.
Even with molting, it's not uncommon for birds to undergo fungal issues, especially if they’ve been living in moist or humid climates for extended periods. To keep their feathers healthy, ravens, jays, and several other species use the juices of the ant to stay clean and refreshed. Where molting and fungus might leave them feeling itchy and uncomfortable, the body fluids of the insect work like a soothing oil.
Ravens are the Catfish of the Air
Catfish are known as “bottom feeders,” eating anything everything within reach that they’re able to digest. Ravens will do their best to scavenge for a healthy snack of berries, insects, and fish, but if they can’t find something fresh, they’ll take what they can get! If necessary, they’ll eat dog and cat food, or pick through trash cans for tasty human leftovers.
If times are really tough, or they just don’t have the energy to spend on knocking the lid off of a trash can, ravens will actually eat roadkill! It seems gross, but animals that are killed on the road actually serve as an abundant, and free source of protein. This doesn’t happen very often though, considering they’ve got plenty of other options.
Gunshot Blast? Have No Fear!
Humans have been hunting with guns for hundreds of years, and most animals have learned that the blast is a sign of danger. Where deer, coyotes, and foxes run away, the raven heads straight toward the sound. Not everyone is hunting for food, and a farmer might leave behind the body of a fox that was attacking their hens out in the woods. Trophy hunters generally remove the head of their kill, and will sometimes toss aside the remains.
Ravens have come to recognize the sound of a gunshot as their chance for a free buffet! On the other hand, they’re smart enough to know the difference between the sound a blast versus similar noises. So don’t bother trying to recreate the sound in an effort to attract a flock of ravens to your home, they’ll be able to tell if it's the real thing!
Respect the Tribe
They’re known for their aggression toward other animals and sometimes humans, but ravens are quite a caring species when it comes to taking care of their own. They work together to keep the group safe, even comforting those who have lost a fight with rivals. However, they don’t take kindly to birds with selfish behavior. When working together to find food they split it evenly to ensure that everyone gets a fair ration.
Should an individual bird get caught stealing from another or taking more than what they’ve earned, they’ll likely be exiled from the group. They’ll be banned from taking part in scavenging, and won’t receive much help or cooperation from their friends if they run into trouble. A self-serving bird won’t be a good partner in terms of survival, so this is nature’s way of weeding out the weakest link.
Since ravens mate for life, they’ll need a partner that they can count on to help defend their nest, keep offspring safe, and ensure the viability of their partner as well.
While you’ll want to keep them away from your cat, ravens can be a very helpful addition to your yard. Keep rodents away, get some raven bird seed now!