Nesting Instincts


They can’t live in a box forever.

But how do you build a raven’s nest?  I don’t speak raven, so I can’t ask them.  I start with their homely toilet paper box.  I wrap it in chicken wire.  One of our chickens checks it out and gives her approval.

raven box

I walk to the wash and retrieve the remaining nesting material that had been discarded there.  The whole mass of twigs and matter smells musky and wild.  It feels true to what the raven is and should be.

One of the nesting pairs out that way follows me all the way back to housing, alighting on the ground every few feet.  I assume it’s the male.  And I assume he recognizes raven nest stuff.  And I assume he’s wondering what the heck I’m going to do with it.  He stays with me, long after we’ve passed the brood he’s protecting.

At home, I gather additional twigs and matter from the yard.  I now have to think like a raven. What stuff is pliable?  What is warm?  What is too long or too short?  Those are some of my criteria, but I have two hands, ten digits, clippers, and chicken wire.  The raven has his beak.  What does he consider?

Even with all of my tools, assembling the nest takes the better part of the day.  And I’m left in awe of my feathered friends.  All of their twigs are of near uniform length and diameter and woven together into a complex tight mass.  I have no idea how they do it.  Where we live, there is a severe housing shortage and half built homes litter the landscape.  People want houses built for them.  The damn ravens just do it themselves and their construction requires monumental effort.

Their nesting material is packed with dog hair, human hair, couch stuffing.  I recognize some of it.  A lot of it, actually.  When we clean our house we empty the vacuum cleaner in the compost pile.  And the ravens have raided it to insulate their nest.  The hair is my hair.  The fur belongs to our dog, Mango.

I’ve positioned the nest on the far edge of the ramada, as far from the house as possible.  As I weave in the last few twigs, parental instincts kick in.  This place may appear safer to the ravens, but in fact it’s not safe.  Not at all.  It’s perched adjacent to the service road.  My poor estimation of people surfaces.  Some farmer will come and kill them.  Or a Health Safety Office will deem them a hazard and remove them.  Or a housing manager will give orders to destroy the nest.

I reluctantly reassemble the nest back toward the center of the ramada, away from the road and out of line site from all the windows of the house.   The babies need protection.

Mid afternoon, I place them in their new home.  They calm down at the familiar appearance and texture.  They know this matted material.  The caked shit holding everything together is theirs.

Home.  They perch on the lip.  They appear happy.

Ravens on ramada

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