The ravens are learning to feed themselves.  Kind of.  You would think that feeding would come naturally to any living thing.  But with these birdies, perhaps most birdies, it’s different.  As young fledgelings, they call, you drop food in their gaping gullets and they’re happy.  You put food down in front of them, however, and they don’t get it.  They don’t pick at it, they don’t look at it, they walk on it, walk past it, do just about anything but recognize it as food.

Kerry thinks it’s a cognitive thing.  Food is something that is dropped in your mouth, it’s not something lying about.

So now the new method.  Dangle the meat in their mouths and slowly lead their beaks down to the nest and drape the food on the branches.  Hopefully they get the idea and pick it up themselves.  After a few tries, they mostly get it.

Poe, oddly enough, seems to have the most difficulty.  He’s the first to take flight.  Most mornings he’s perched on the fence or the roof or the hammock, or across the street on someone’s car.  He’s figuring out the wing thing pretty quickly, but when it comes to food, he can be starving, but won’t approach to grab the meat. You have to go to him.  And he has a heck of a time positioning himself properly, in some cases twisting himself into an avian pretzel.

But you have to have faith. Earlier I’d watched one of the chickens eye the bird feeder hungrily.  After some consideration, he followed the example of the finches and hopped to the top of the fence and commenced to feed with them.  Fortunately for us and for chickens, if hungry enough, even a dinosaur can learn to fly.

Later from below I watch Kerry dangle a strip of flesh above a waiting beak.  Who’s training who?  I see us doing this day after day.  In this sparse environment,  I suddenly understand how invention leads to habit. Habit becomes ritual.  Ritual, ceremony.  And ceremony becomes religion.  Each spring, legions of our descendants will ritually feed a captive raven in the spring.  It will symbolize stewardship and love for all creatures.  We will have forgotten how it all began in the first place.

Feeding © Kerry Hardy

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