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Nature Scenes: Common ravens are highly intelligent and can sometimes outsmart predators
By Lynn Bowen
posted Oct 27, 2013 - 7:48:56am
Common ravens are intelligent, 25-inch-long birds that weigh 2.6 pounds. Shiny blue-black feathers, alert black eyes, and shaggy throat feathers are among the bird’s distinguishing features.
Not only do ravens have wonderful instincts, but they also have large brains in proportion to their size. They can learn tricks, such as how to fly away with two doughnuts when only one will fit in the bird’s beak: One doughnut is slipped over the beak, and then the other doughnut can be picked up in the beak.
These birds have figured out, in just one try, how to meet even more elaborate challenges. They can even be taught to say a few words, although keeping them in captivity is illegal. Many birds just have to settle for instinct alone! Ravens have powerful “bowie knife” black beaks and long, broad, rather-pointed wings. Their black legs and feet are strong, and their average life span is 10 to 15 years!
These are not social birds, and live alone or in pairs, yet will collect food with other ravens. They live in both open and forest habitats across western and northern North America and Europe in forests, desert, seacoast, tundra and grassland.
These omnivorous birds eat carrion, insects, cereal grain, fruit, small animals, and food waste.
Their cleverness sometimes outsmarts predators such as golden eagles, great horned owls, wolves, coyotes and lynxes. An example is when a raven drops stones on predators that are near the raven’s nest! They have alarm calls, chase calls, flight calls and bill-snapping to chase away enemies.
Occasionally, they have other animals do their task. If their beaks can’t open a tough hide of carcass like a moose, they make calls to attract wolves or foxes to the site, and these four-legged creatures tear open the carrion. The ravens get to eat the scraps after the animals leave, either on their own or when they are chased away!
Common ravens usually mate for life. At breeding time, they make a bowl nest of sticks and twigs bound with an inner layer of roots, mud and bark, and lined with soft materials like deer fur, in a large tree or cliff ledge. Rock cavities are the place for a nest if they are in the desert.
The female usually lays three to seven eggs, and incubates them for 18-21 days. The chicks stay with their parents six months to a year.
The other kind of raven is the Chihuahuan raven that lives in Texas and Mexico. This bird is intermediate in size between the crow and the common raven. Common crows and fish crows live in Florida, and are relatives of common ravens. However, clever, fun-loving common ravens do not live in our beautiful Florida. How fascinating to learn all this!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at email@example.com.
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