Common Raven

Look at this bird; see the picture below. Would you call it a songbird?

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Common Raven

Common Raven

Common Raven with something to say. Under all that, black is a brilliant bird. So we should listen.
Closeup of Common Raven

This is a closeup of a Common Raven head. Look closely at its beak. How does this bird eat meat with that beak? Read on.

A group of ravens is called an unkindness because ravens are associated with bad luck. In mythology, they are trickster animals.

This bird is an acrobatic flier with rolls and somersaults in their bag of tricks. Young birds play games with sticks by dropping them in the air and diving after them to catch them before the stick hits the ground.

Like most people, you will probably be surprised to know that this bird is the largest songbird and perching bird in the world. To learn more about songbirds, check out this page. You don't have to be decorative to be a songbird or have a pretty song. Ravens are known to mimic the calls of other birds.

Common Ravens are very intelligent. They will sometimes work with other ravens to steal eggs or chicks. Once, I about broke my back, swinging around to catch a picture of a raven in flight carrying an egg.

In a two-step research study, researchers worked with ravens. The ravens learned that they could take a token and "buy" some good food. The second step was to allow the ravens to choose cheap food or a token to get good food. Seventy percent of the time, the raven took the token for better food.

One thing you don't want to do is leave things in the open. Ravens are scavengers who will eat, try to eat, or use whatever they can access in other ways.

In Yellowstone National Park, staff frequently remind people not to feed or entice ravens by leaving food sitting around, keeping garbage bags in the back of open trucks, and not securing bags or saddle bags on motorcycles. Ravens have been known to unzip saddle bags, steal snowmobile keys, and destroy garbage bags and the surrounding landscape with the mess, all while looking for a treat.

Common Raven setting in a sports car with the top down.

This Common Raven is not waiting for a ride but is looking for things to steal, not just food. This kind of activity can be seen anywhere in Yellowstone, so the suggestion is to secure our possessions.

A group of Common Ravens on winter kill carcass.

This group of Common Ravens was feasting on a winter kill bison carcass in the Blacktail Pond. Yes, ravens eat meat once another animal tears open the skin.

As you can see in the image above, ravens will go where they please. Depending on the situation, they may gang up on-site, making it difficult to scatter and secure the area. These are bold and persistent birds.

Here are a couple of personal stories: I sold a lady $36 of food in the Old Faithful Lodge Cafeteria. She boxed it up, went outside, walked to the Old Faithful boardwalk, set the boxes down, and walked away. Within seconds, there were four ravens on the boxes having dinner. Unfortunately, we were too far away to do anything.

One day, after being in the basin for 8 hours, I sat and talked to a young family. A woman came to the benches near us, set down her open purse, and moved a short distance away. A raven quickly responded, started pulling out a tissue packet from the bag, and jumped back to the ground about 12 feet from the boardwalk. All we could do was watch as the bird opened the unopened package, pulled out the tissues one by one, and placed them on the ground. There was nothing I could do. The bird ignored my waving of the 9-foot grabber I had, and the grabber was too short to reach the tissues. I could not step down on the ground in front of the boardwalk. The following day, when I returned, the tissues had blown a little closer to the boardwalk, and the dew held them in place. So, the story ends well because the trash was retrieved.

The Common Raven has a symbiotic relationship with wolves. They have been seen playing with wolf pups.

They have been seen making a racket when they find carrion to attract predators' attention. They have been seen leading wolves to a carcass. Why would they do that? Look at the top two pictures above at the raven's beak. That beak is not designed for tearing through skin. They need the help of an animal with sharp claws to pull open the skin. At this point, they can sneak in and grab some chow. Ravens can eat up to 2 pounds a day. So, when an unkindness of 10-20 birds is at a kill site, they can consume a significant amount of it. Yes, the wolves snap at them, but the ravens are too quick and jump away only to return for more a little later.

Common Raven nest with 4 hungry chicks

This Common Raven nest was at the Golden Gate area of Yellowstone National Park. These four hungry chicks are calling for their parents. As the chicks grow, on occasion, the nest becomes too small. In that case, one or more chicks may be pushed out by the stronger chicks. That happened at this nest. A single chick was about 15 feet below the nest on a ledge.

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