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The common raven belongs to the bird family corvidae. The family includes the magpies, crows, jackdaws, rooks and jays. This bird’s habitats are diverse and spread all through the northern hemisphere. The common raven is found in California, in Alaska, in the Scandinavia, Scotland, in Russia, Iceland among other places in highly diverse habitats (Dudley, 2002). The bird is known to live even on the Everest at extremely high altitudes of above six thousand meters. The common raven is an all black bird with a stout beak, and shaggy feathers around the beak. The bird is actually the largest song bird on the planet. Corvas corax is the common crow. There are about a hundred and twenty species of the corvid family, however, some are extinct.
The raven eats a wide variety of food. The bird is omnivorous. They feed on grains, arthropods, reptiles, amphibians, prey on small birds and other vertebrates. They are notorious scavengers that await other animals, such as the fox, to make a kill. The raven is also known to hide/cache food. The raven also notoriously raids cached food by its fellow ravens and other birds and animals. The raven regurgitates indigestible food into pellets. The raven has been observed flying into the nests of fellow ravens and consuming eggs and fledglings. This however, is not limited to ravens only; it also raids other birds’ nests. With urbanization, ravens and other birds constantly flock at dumping sites in a bid to feed on food remains (Schaefer & Rudd, 2004).
The raven is also a victim of predation in some occasions. However, it is also a large bird weighing up to 1.2kgs and of a height of about 63 centimeters, which is capable of dealing ably with predators (Green, 2009). Its main predators include the owls, wolves and other predator birds. These predators, though, mostly target the fledglings as the adult raven can rise to a predation occasion ably.
The raven’s nest is mostly made of twigs intertwined with roots, then covered with soft materials such as animal fur. The nests are mostly on high mountainous trees and cliff edges and rarely on human structures.
The raven mates after 3 to 4 years. The courting stage takes a long time, and consequently, the mating stage is marked by a lot of acrobatic flying crafted to impress the mate. The raven is considered a monogamous bird unlike a large number of other birds and exhibits a remarkable devotion to family. However, raven relationships are generally quarrelsome. The raven lays 3 to 7 eggs in the nest, which hatch into fledglings. The female raven broods the eggs while the male raven is merely an onlooker. However, both parents feed the hatched fledglings. The fledglings stick in the nest for about six months before they turn rebellious and fly out of the nest and form flocks with other such rebellious young ravens. They are known to live for about 21-29 years.
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The young ravens are known to flock together and are playful. They are attracted to bright objects. The older ravens generally couple and live in solitude with their mate for the rest of their life and become neophobic. The raven is extremely territorial. Together with its mate, it maintains a territory which they guard religiously and sometimes maintain it for life. According to Newton & Brockie (2008), the loyalty of ravens is witnessed due to their monogamy and the act of defending each other from predators.
Scientists have recorded up to 30 different types of sounds produced by ravens which are for interaction purposes. Some are vocal while others are not. Some are alarms such as chase calls, flight calls, and alarm calls. Non vocal sounds comprise of wing whistling snapping of beaks. Witnessed in male ravens more than in a female is clapping and clicking. Other sounds include mews, high-pitched cries, dripping water sounds, and glooks. For instance, if a mate is lost, a raven will call it back in a distinct way.
It is has been found that ravens together with ants, bees and humans are the only species that possess displacement capability. This defines the ability to communicate about things that are absent in both space and time. For instance, a young raven might see a large carcass under the custody of adult ravens. It will fly back to the rest of the flock of young ravens and the next day the flock will fly to that exact spot to chase away the earlier custodians. The linguistic displacement is only shared by humans.
It is thought that the raven’s solving of problems put before it is purely instinctive, but studies have shown that the raven is quite intelligent and innovative. Several ravens in an experiment were able to pull up a piece of meat hanging by a string up instead of trying to yank it off the string. The raven also exhibits remarkable intelligence when it makes calls inviting foxes and wolves on finding a carcass. It cannot tear the flesh itself, but the carnivores with their canines to descend on the leftovers there after.
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Ravens commonly cache food while their fellow ravens are watching. The latter will remember this occasion and steal this cache of food. It is for this reason that common ravens move to some distance from the food source to try secure its cache. Sometimes a raven will play a decoy by playing to be hiding the cache while it has not done so, then proceeding to hide the food elsewhere.
The raven is a playful bird. The young ravens are more playful and undertake spectacular acrobatics in the air by flying high into the sky. They are also the only birds that use toys in their play. They pass twigs and feathers in their talons as they play in the air. They have recently been noted to slide on snow banks for fun. They fly in loops and interlock talons during their play.
Ravens and Humans
Ravens interrelate with humans in many ways and have been known to destroy crops and cause harm to livestock (Sjonger & Kalman, 2005). Over and above, ravens have been featured in literature, myths, culture. For example, Noah in the Bible sent out a raven after the flood which did not obey him. It did not return to the ark. He sent out a different species of birds, the pigeon which obeyed him by returning to the ark with a twig indicating it had found the land after the great flood. North mythology features the raven as well. The western mythology conversely uses the raven in many occasions, and in many cultures the raven was viewed as a bad omen.
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The raven like any other bird has been affected by urbanization. The biodiversity of the bird is remarkable in its relationship and interaction with other birds, humans and other species. The ravens’ intelligence is unmatched by other birds and evidently by a majority of other animals. Urbanization has seen flocks of ravens and other birds changing their diets and habitats. Ravens having been nesting on human built structures and feeding at dump sites.
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