What Good Are These Damn Birds?


Easy enough.

In recent years, what have we learned about them?

They may have more distinct vocalizations than any other bird.  Some believe they may have a highly developed language.  Although they’re frequently confused with crows, they are distinct both in a behavior and appearance:  they’re larger, have longer more pronounced beaks, a bearded tuft beneath their chins.  They raise their young for up to two years.  They have extended family units and complex social networks.  They can distinguish friend from foe and can share this information with other ravens.

They’re omnivores, but primarily feed on carrion.  That means they keep things clean. They eat grasshoppers and rodents that feed on corn.

But them just things I’ve heard.  What have I personally observed?

At times when I’ve approached a nest filled with fledgelings, the male (I assume) has shadowed close (within 15 feet) making loud distress calls.  The female remained in the nest guarding the brood.  At other times, both would follow me with loud calls, chasing me away from the young.

Over the years, as I’ve worked in the yard in the early mornings, the mating pairs have settled on light posts and observed me.  When I’ve called to them, they’ve responded.  Some mornings they approach and call out during their flyover.

When we first placed the young ravens on our ramada, the parents responded to their distress calls.  Since then, they’ve made multiple flyovers, seemingly observing their young.

The parents have relocated to the wash and have joined the nesting pair there.  At times I’ve seen all four perched in the cottonwood, collectively staring toward our housing a quarter mile distant.

The young at our house each have distinct personalities: Poe, the recluse.  More, the insistent.  Never and For hunkered together like twins.  They display affection toward one another and toward us.  When spoken to, they respond with vocalizations.

They’re curious.  And keen observers.

But there’s more.

Serendipitously, they’ve also provided a new lens through which to observe the world. Through their personality and behaviors and all they’ve summoned, new realms, ideas, relationships, phenomena have risen in sharp relief.

So listen for them.  And observe.  Perhaps the best we can do is to follow their call.

Raven Dusk © Kerry Hardy

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