A Year With The Ravens
As long. As I can remember I was always fascinated by the incredible, wildlife that could be found in the forests. Beaches. Mountains. And. Deserts. My. Family and I visited and passed, through on her road trips and vacations. My. Father taught me not only respect, all wildlife but, also how, to blend in and to, enjoy it by being quiet. Patient. And observant. He. Also taught me how to be ready to lend a helping hand to the young and the injured, for. Numerous reasons that I hope will become quite obvious in this presentation, the, Ravens, have always stood out as something extra-special. Many. Years ago I had the opportunity to help out an abandoned, baby Raven, as in the short time I nursed this raven back into the wild, I learned, Ravens are more unique than I ever dreamed they could be what, I especially, enjoyed. Was watching, how he chose to tease not, only the other animals, both wild and domestic, but also the humans that lived all throughout the neighborhood, I was. Curious to see if I could see the same behavioral, traits in the wild birds and if, they would manifest, in a similar or completely, different way after. Talking to many owners who have had similar experiences, I thought, someone has got to share this and, that's. What brought me to the wild Ravens I had seen for many years every time I passed Crystal, Cove State Park. What. Follows is the two stories I have videotaped, over the last two decades with the burbs. You. See at. Times I will be sharing my, prior short, stories with Huey and then, giving examples, of what I have experienced, with the wild Ravens in different parts of the country I hope. You will be as amazed, and entertained, by these truly magnificent. Birds as I, am what, are you doing we'll. Begin our year, with the Ravens in spring and then, I'll take you through each of the other three seasons, and show, you how the birds develop, through, all of their growth stages from, egg to. Nesting. Two fledgling. Two. Juvenile. Two. Sub-adult. And. What. They will be learning in each of these four seasons, before, they are old enough to find a mate, and territory. Of their own. Spring. Every. Raven begins its life in an egg that's laid in a one-of-a-kind nest, that, only Ravens. Make. The. Female may, lay anywhere. Between one, and eight eggs a, magical. Thing in itself the egg protects, and nourishes a, bird from, its very beginning, as a, fertilized, zygote to. The. Newborn hatchling. Because. I conduct, my study in a protected, State Park I purposely. Don't bother the birds during the nesting egg stage so. I'll just show you these excellent examples, from the Western foundation, of vertebrate. Zoology, also. Called the, Camarillo, bird museum. Ravens. Are born with their eyes closed but as soon as the hatchling opens its eyes it bonds, or imprints, on to whoever is feeding it this. Is a bird's very first relationship, it, then begins to notice and to learn to relate to its siblings, all. Of my Raven couples, generally, have between 3 and 6 young in what, is called a brood. Here. You see the young have hatched and are up and moving, about. Ravens. Grow very fast and appear very, close to adult size in just about 3 weeks. During. This time in the nest they are already getting used to competing with, their siblings for food. The. Best spot to sit, mom. Or dad's attention and. Even. Before they get out of the nest they learn the art of teasing. And are, already, very aware, of the reaction, they'll get by, pulling, their siblings, tail, wing. Or, just. About any feather. And, now the real fun is about to begin as I wait in anticipation for. The young to begin to venture off the nest and then. Start. To fly but. More often than not it, takes somewhere around 30 days before, they will actually start to try to fly, as. The young bird actually begins to fly, I noticed. The environment, has already, had an influence on the birds. They've. Got to be able to get up and off the ground and know, when to stay off the ground because depending on what part of the world they're in there's, many that would like these young Ravens for lunch.
Bobcats. Coyotes. Fox. Hawks. Peregrine. Falcons, and others, like them a young, raven caught on the ground is no match for many, adult animals, out hunting, for food for its own young. But. Now it's. Time to fly. Uh-huh. Yeah, he's trying to get up to mom. If. There's a time in my relationship, with my wife where I could say I might, bug her a bit it would be when the baby Ravens, are learning to fly, fortunately. I have my class I teach at Crystal Cove every Wednesday so at least I get to have breakfast, with them once in a while and spend, much of the day knowing they are close by but. Even on days off I'm asking. Want to go down to Crystal Cove a little, more often than maybe she might like to here but, in my defense it's, like getting to go to an airshow every, year. How. Many times can you see a p-51, Mustang. In the air before it's too much, how, many acrobatic, World War one era biplanes. Can you watch spin and fall how. Many military, jets, can, you watch perform, their amazing stunts, before. It's too much. When. It comes to the magic of flight is there. Ever too, much, that's. The question I have to address every year when it comes to the Ravens see, I just marvel, at the whole flight thing and watching. The young Ravens do it every year never, gets. Tiring. Because. It seems there's always something. New something. Unique. Each. And every year one will do some, unique, maneuver I've never seen or caught on tape before. We. Learned with our bird they're really not taught to fly they, just do it naturally it's. Almost, magic, good. Job, each day they get more confident, and they begin to make their way further and further from the nest area. Within. A week or two they become extremely proficient, in the air. Let's. Take a look at some of the slow motion examples. A. Flip. Now. In slow motion. How about some quick cuts. Will. Slow it down for you. All, this. Amazing. Aerial. Display. But. Then they still have quite a ways to go when it comes to landing. Or. Sitting, on a wire. Or. Oh. Yeah. That was good. Okay. Let's. Move. I've, noticed every brood has its runt this, bird is the one I find spending so much time alone totally, entertain, somewhere up on the hill digging, in the sand or playing, with some special treasure all by, itself the, runt is almost always the last one to bathe the, last to bed at sunset, and the, last to care whether, it eats or not the. Runt was also the one who most likely stayed, behind with, me and either played or talked. Now. That they are out and about and getting, far more confident, with their flying skills they, become far, more aware of their environment and other, things they share their territory, with. This. Is one of the more vulnerable times, in their life because they start following and mimicking, the parents and I, don't think they quite perceive their mortality yet. One. Of my biggest hurdles, with Huy the young bird I helped to get back into the wild was, how to teach hid to fear things that would harm it, fear.
For These young birds is not instinct, the parents have to teach, them this. We've. Already mentioned the run but I also learned who is the more dominant one in the brood and who are the more subservient. The. Pecking order isn't as pronounced, and obvious as chickens but. It's there. Let's. Talk about what. Ravens, eat in. My travels, I think I've seen Ravens eating anything and everything, at one time or another, breakfast. Waffles. Offhand. I can't think of anything specific they. Won't try or carry away in cash at least once, I. Can. Tell you bugs are big and. It may be one of the reasons why they fly so wacky sometimes, there, have been numerous times I've got, a shot of a raven doing a fantastic die, of return and then, gotten home and see, that they were most likely chasing. A bug. By. Now the young birds are truly some of the great masters, of the sky about. The only thing I don't see them do is try to reach the speeds of a falcon in a long dive whether. They can physically do that or not as beyond my means to test but. Then why would a raven need to do that that, kind of behavior doesn't. Fit a Ravens. Personality. But. I do see them hover in place and even go backwards, not, the same way or to the same degree a hummingbird, does but, they do choose to fly backwards sideways. And hover, when, it's necessary to do so. They. Also remind me of Swift's, with their very quick turns and racing around they. Soar like sea birds and they can stay almost, as rigid as a hawk if they, need to do so but. Staying in one place it's, also, not, a Ravens personality. They. Also seem to love, to fly with everything, they share the sky with. Is. This raven showing off i, mean. Does it appear to you that he's kind of watching, what the plane does and then. Appears to go and outdo it, almost. Begging the question can. You do this. To. Me flight. Is an engineering, marvel and as, far as I'm concerned it's, a miracle anything, anything. At all can fly let, alone a bird who, is specifically, born to do so. Naturally. And. Effortlessly. Every. Natural physical. Characteristic. Of a bird says fly from. The strength and lightness, of their bones to, their one-way lungs to. The intricacies. Of each and every feather and. In. Time I convinced, we will find that Burge did not come from reptiles, or dinosaurs they. Are a one-of-a-kind, creature. Specifically. Engineered with, the ability. To fly in the sky above us and that, they were made, to wow and. Entertain. Us, movies. Now even, CGI, birds into the panoramic, views to, give the scenes of richer fuller, and more, realistic, moving. Effect. Birds. Were, made to, fly. Ravens. Are some. Of the best at. It. Huey. Played hard and then he dressed, and his, rest might be taken in a number of different ways, he, loved opening. His wings and mouth and would, just sit and Sun himself. He'd. Sit in the shade of a tree I. Find. The wild birds doing exactly. The same. Quiet. Time for the wild birds comes at different times of the day and at different ways depending on the activity prior. To the. Resting time. During. This last part of spring the, young birds are only a few weeks old and already, they, are turning towards almost, a teenager like existence. Not. Quite so dependent, on mom and dad yet, still looking, for a handout. Depending. On how early they fledged sometimes. We can find them already out roaming, around the neighborhood territories, causing. Trouble with, the neighborhood, kids the. Parents in these other territories, are not so happy and they, do their best to keep the uninvited, troublemakers, out and just. Like teenagers even. When the kids are at home they, are beginning to spend more time away from mom and dad some. Choose to pair up and roam, together. Others. Tend, to spend more time all alone. And. During this time they're also learning, to cache and Ravens. Excel, at caching, that. Is to hide something away or hopefully, no, one else can find it I love. To watch the kids find something, pick, it up hold, it high so everyone, else can see it and maybe, just. Maybe someone. Else will want it and a new game begins, if, not no, worries we'll. Just take it and cache, it. Now. Seagulls don't cache so, even though a raven will cache something, right, in full view of a seagull the. Gull won't, go and get it but. Another. Raven will. Huy. Was always home by sunset. And it was one of the most fascinating times. Of the day especially, when, he was very young, both. The young Ravens and the juveniles seemed to need to get their last bits of energy out before. The Sun Goes Down when. Visiting a new area, I always watch and listen as the, sun's going down to, see if we might be close to an area where they gathered a roost because.
I Love to observe their, last of the day interactions. With each other if. It remind me of kids right his mom and dad are trying to get them to bed and get them that brush their teeth and of, course they're off running in every direction except. The one mom and dad want them to go. Did. I tell you the runt is usually, the last to bed. Summer. I. Found. Out by watching Huey that he naturally developed, somewhat of a territory, issue. Nothing. Could be in or stay in that loosely, designated. Area that he didn't want to be there. It. Took me no time at all to figure out that the wild mated, couples are even more defined, in their, version of what they would call their, territory. The. Kids pretty much stick within their parents territory, for most of spring but, by summer they are now venturing off into the other couples territories, and they, seem to know exactly, what they are doing of, course the other couples, don't like it and they will spend some serious energy trying, to oust the invaders, there. Are times when it can get quite heated and once, in a while an adult Raven will attack the young of another brood I have, never witnessed one hurting another bird but sometimes, it sounds kind. Of scary. For. The most part these territories, are well respected by the other adult, Ravens. There. Are a few times when exceptions, will take place, these. Are the top three starting, with number three maybe. Once a year but not every year I'll see a whole group of juveniles, as they make their way through the park in instances. Like these there, are just too many of them for any of the couples to do anything about it usually. I'll see this procession, going across the hills behind, the park but, twice I've seen it on the beachside and it's, quite a sight this. Was way back in 2005. And there's, about 25 young birds here a sighting. Like this is extremely, rare in my area, the. Number two exception, might be during the mating season other. Ravens will come into the territories, and, say it might be the visitors are just checking the fidelity of the residing, Birds they, seem to be just making sure everyone, is satisfied, with, the mate of their choice the. Other mate will run the intruders, out but. Here again sometimes, there's just too many of them and they might hang around for a while twice, I've witnessed a quick touch-and-go, relationship. During mating season but, it was just that and the original couples stay too and are still together. And. Now. For the number one reason as to why there might be other, Ravens, in a guarded, Couples, territory. Ravens. Gathered. Together to. Play. My, buddy Healy and I used to play many different games, he, played even more with neighbors and some of the games were person specific. In, other words he only played the I'm tanking, your handkerchief, and moving it just out of your reach over and over again game, with you, Scott and he didn't play that game with anyone, else or. I'm. Playing hide and seek only, with, you. I'm. Only teasing the crows with french fries he, we didn't bother trying to tease any other bird or animal with french fries. Fact. Is play, is a big part of every young Ravens day. Young. Ravens will hop and poke and play until, food is present, then they will run over and eat quickly then. Immediately run back to doing what they were doing before they had been interrupted. And by, this time in summer you think they were getting paid to play because. They get so good at it it doesn't matter if it's on the ground. In. The air. Or. More often and not a combination. Of both back, and forth, and. I can just watch them, for hours. Now.
Let's Talk about Hughey in teasing I mentioned, in the beginning how do we figure out how to tease someone in a very specific way you, could almost see the wheels turning. The. Wild birds do it too but not quite to the same degree but, I love to watch as they find something and then, as if to say ah look this is something really special and then, they'll hold it up high for all to see in hopes, that somebody else will take an interest and then, hopefully they'll come and try and take it. Get. That seagull. And. Then. There's the tail point Ravens, are masters, at pulling tails and they, will pull the tails of anything, in everything, including wolves, Eagles, condors, otters, and other, animals far larger and stronger than themselves they. Of course learn this right from the beginning and they practice it on each other and. Here, is a favorite you'll see a young raven with. Food. Putting. The food down so the seagull can see it, waiting. Until the seagull takes a number of steps towards, it and then right before the seagull gets there he'll, snatch it up and take, it away. I. Noticed. Hugh he developed routines where he liked to do certain things at specific, times of the day I watched. The wild birds to see if they'd do the same with. Huey it was to get up at first, light. I'm. Sketch I'd, feed him and then we play a bit and. Then. He'd run off and he played with his crow buddies for a while. About. Eight or nine he'd come back to, Bay and. Or. Play. Sure. Enough I find the wild birds doing something very similar and by, mid summer the young Ravens are in somewhat of a routine this. Made them easy to find for me because no matter what time I arrived, at the park I'd have a pretty good idea where they most likely might be like. Huey they get up about, first light and play and feed for a while. Then, sometime, between eight and nine they'd head for the area in their territory, where there was fresh water available. Like. Huey they didn't bathe every day but, they did still head to the same fresh water source close to the same time most, every day. Ravens. Go through a multi, and lose their down feathers, and they, can look pretty scraggly. The. Year we had Huey had never got that hot for very long so Hugh he lost his down but, it wasn't as drastic, I've said I've seen in some of the wild birds there's. Been a couple of really hot years where, I really worried there was something wrong with the birds for. A time they, can get pretty scraggly looking. Thank. You the. Adults go through it too but here again it's not as drastic as what some of the kids can look like but. As we will see in fall when, the new feathers grow in they look richer and fuller, than ever. Autumn. Or fall. In. Autumn or fall we. See the relationships, continue to develop with, more play and more. Very serious, goofing off the. Siblings that are left and that varies year by year are now beginning to demonstrate. How their individual, personalities. Affect, their day-to-day lives. I find. This totally. Fascinating. Roll. Your brother right off the hill. You can push them off the hill, all. Three of you, guys. Are rotten. Now. Is the time the dominant ones become, more feisty. They. Jump to be first to. Be noticed or. To. Be on top, the. Lesser ones become more subservient and kind, of step out of the way of the ones that are more aggressive. What. Are you guys doing huh both. Play and food become. A little rougher. Mom. And dad start backing off from feeding quite so much so, the kids have to start getting stuff on their own and when. One of the kids does fine or is given, something they. Take it and run off all by themselves not. Sharing any of the loot with anybody else, they. Even start fighting and holding out from their parents, but all. The kids will still try to beg and get, a free handout even, if sometimes they aren't hungry or, they don't even want what mom and dad have available.
Discipline. Also gets rougher and tougher and both mom and dad start to lose patience, many. Times they will snap at the kids when they get out of line the. Parents also begin to purposely not feed the kids and will, sometimes bicker with them and even, chase them away from a food source but. Something else happens during this time and it amazes, me even, though it happens every, year. Huy. Our bird would sit for half an hour to an hour and just. Talk. Doc doc doc doc. Imagine. My surprise when I began to learn that every single year one, of the young birds most off of the runt but, sometimes more than one of them will, sit and yak for anywhere from five minutes to an hour sometimes. In a, straight shoot, sometimes. One will start talking then take off still talking then, return moments later still, talking and will, continue to talk, I'm totally baffled, that a wild bird will just sit there and talk, for, an hour or so as I, said before sometimes. I'll just set up my camera and let it run, so. I've become comfortable, with the fact that there is magic, in this world and that miracles, do happen with. Those willing. To look for them life. With, these birds has taught me I can't. Nor do I need to know. It. All for. Me that. Was a very freeing. Realization. He's, playing follow, the leader with these guys he's. Trying to get these guys to chase him. The. Young Ravens continue, through what I would call their juvenile, stage I. Call. Them juveniles, for the entire time they were out of the nest but still under the adults care protection, and the adults still choose to feed them kind, of like a teenager, in high school their, flying skills continue, to improve especially. For the ones who go out and visit the neighbor kids but. Still the neighbor parents, aren't too happy about the friends over after school and they'll, run them out of the territory, sometimes. Right away sometimes. They'll let them play for a bit and then they'll run them out the. Length of this juvenile, stage varies, year to year I've, seen the adults begin kicking them out as early as two months after they, start to fly one. Year they started flying in May and they were booted out in early July but, I'm usually seeing the kids leave somewhere between August, and October. As. Hall comes to an end all, the kids are gone and I, call the states they go through now kind, of their sub adult stage they, are no longer reliant. On the parents for food and in. Fact the parents have kicked them out of the territory, so. Now. These sub. Or pre, adults, have, learned to pretty much take care of themselves they're. Also easier, to identify than. Ravin adults, because, they tend to be noisier. Many. Of them still have some pink in their, mouths, eventually. That, pink will go entirely black. This. Is the stage in their life when I don't get to spend as much time with them as I'd like to other, than the one year when the terrorists, were in the park for so long I don't have constant, contact with this group because, the adults in Crystal Cove run, them all out a group. Of them may attempt to pass through but, they are usually attacked, and asked to leave rather quickly so. I. Have to venture into other parts of the world to get my fix. Lone. Pine California with. The Alabama hills and Mount Whitney as backdrops. Bishop. California has a dump just, outside town that I check every time I go by but, only once in all the times I've been have, I seen a large gathering of Ravens. Death. Valley California has it a great group of sub adults, and I love watching them fidget banter. And move, for position, before, roosting, for the night it's. My understanding from. Other researchers, that these birds are usually between one, and say, three to five years old they, get together and form a temporary gang living, more like crows, when. An if they find a suitable mate then, they pair up and that's, when I see them coming, as a new couple that tries to homestead their own area in a park like where I'm at I. Also. See these groups in the Grand Canyon. Like. That. Another. One of my favorite places to visit this group is. Catalina. Island. Here. I find a combination of both mating adults and sub-adults. Sometimes. Working, side by side I, get. Sunrises, sunsets. And many. Chase scenes here. Winter. Winter. Is generally, a time of peace and tranquility. Now. I get to see Ravens really. Be Ravens, and I especially enjoy, visiting, old, friends on, our yearly winter, road trips through, the Wild West of the United States and Canada during. This. Time I also get, to see some of the many ways adult, raisins demonstrate, their unique intelligence, through, teamwork. Recognition. Memory. Play. There's. Gonna kiss for me huh gonna kiss. Thank. You and. So. Much more. You. Talk to me today Ravens can also be very expressive with their looks both, the actions, and the way they display their feathers can, be both comical, and fun.
See. It, baffles, me the loyalty, these birds demonstrate, towards each other I would, call it a type of love but it's not so much romantic, love as it, is devotional, love these. Birds work together as a team to keep their territory, free of other, Ravens. And. To. Drive out competitive, predators, like Bobcats, coyotes and. Hawks. Being. Natural scavengers, they also work together to. Play clean, oh they. Are almost always together as a pair one, may run off to another area in the park for a short time but, generally if, I can see one of the birds the, other is sure to be close by. And. During. Certain times of the day they sit very close sometimes. Side by side facing. Each other making. All kinds of noises and, preening. One, another and. Here. We'll sit still and spend, a little time with one of my favorite couples in, Bryce. Because. My adult, birds at the park have been together so, long I don't, get to see much in the way of beginning courtship. Behavior, what, I do see each and every year is what, seems to be a testing, period where usually two different couples sometimes. More will get together and sort, of fly with each other sometimes. For about 20 minutes or so other times for longer. Then. The territory seemed to be drawn up and for, the rest of the year they are protected. And defended by. Each couple, in fact. In most cases defending. The territory even. Takes priority over a food source. Nest-building. Seams to begin right after the squabbles, formate and territory, are settled, and over both. Birds participate. Bringing, different sizes, of twigs and sticks from a number of different areas. Ravens, are also known to line their nests with different kinds of material, including. Fur. From bears wolves. Bobcats. Coyotes and, many, other animals, that share the territory. Ravens. Build their nests in a variety of spots, on cliff, sides. In. Trees. On. Power, poles. Inside. Rock formations, and. I. See a number on large buildings, where, the bird deterrent, devices, don't, seem to affect Ravens at all. And. Now. Mating, season begins the, mating of birds and especially Ravens, is pretty boring and it's what I call a simple, touch-and-go, affair.
There's. No cigarette after no, signs of wanting to take a nap in fact, they just carry on as if nothing has, happened at, all once. In a while I might get some advance notice the male may bring some, sort, of toy tidbit. To eat and she, might do a little tail wagging, to say she's ready but, then it's just hop on touched the parts under the tail rather quickly and off, we go it, all happens so quickly that, out of them many times I've observed it I've only been able to record it a couple of times by. The time I turn on my camera and it warms up to readiness, even though that's only a matter of a seconds they're, already done. Now. Keep in mind we are talking the animal world here not, the human world where there are supposedly, a contract, between couples so. It shouldn't be misread, as some sort of adultery when, there have been a few times when both I and others in the park have seen mating between birds that aren't couples, but. For the most part my, time with the birds would suggest that most mating takes place pretty exclusively, between the pair. During. This mating time the eggs get laid by the female and the whole process starts all over again. When. I started this project 15, years ago I thought I could tell a story and then like all stories there, would be an end the, problem with these birds is the story never really, ends and there's, always more to learn from. The. Raven. I. Hope. You've enjoyed our year with the Ravens as much as I've enjoyed sharing, it you can keep up with our continuing, animal adventures, on our YouTube channel the raven diaries all one word and, then. Get. Out there and, make, some of your own.