Learning is Fun

Three ravens came down from the ramada today.  One takes to drinking water from the bird bowl. The others pick and pull at cardboard, straw, bread scraps in the yard.  They peck at loose material with their beaks, feeling their way through the world, learning about different materials. 

We learn through play and exploration.  We take flight, not because it’s time to feed ourselves and wing flapping will help us do so.  Sometimes we fly out of fear like Poe did yesterday.  But mostly we take flight just because it’s fun.  We learn through play.  We also learn from our peers.    One raven left up top, calls out yet to the others, afraid to make the leap.  Their presence down below goads him. I can’t help but think that they’re also observing the other birds and picking up something of how to fly.  Self-feeding is learned behavior.  I wonder too about flying. In the absence of true parents, how quickly will they learn what to do?

They will be left to learn only through play.  Feral, without society and species context, what new world will they discover and invent?

Self Feeding © Kerry Hardy




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