Raven

Near Willcox Arizona is a water treatment/wildlife refuge called Cochise Lake. When I arrived in late morning only a couple of mallards floated in the middle of the water. As I’d made quite a detour to find this place, I was disappointed by the lack of vegetation and birds. But as I drove slowly away on the dirt track, this raven called out to me, croaking in guttural tones.   Here I am!  Look at me!  I am bird! I stopped the car, got out and had quite a visit with this raven who seemed eager to interact.

Ravens are famous for their intelligence, curiosity and playfulness. Inky black ravens soar gracefully overhead, walk on the ground with a swagger, and show off with acrobatic barrel rolls in courtship and play. Myths and stories attest to their smarts, and as scientists come up with ever more sophisticated problems for them to solve, ravens continue to amaze with their clever solutions. 

Ravens are usually seen alone or in pairs. They mate for life and the pair bond is very strong. The couple often hunts together, able to trap prey more effectively working as a team. Juvenile birds do hang together in social groups until they are old enough to choose a mate between the ages 3 to 7 years.  During this time young ravens form friendship bonds, hunt cooperatively and roost together. Outsiders are treated with suspicion and often chased away.

As omnivores, ravens eat just about anything. If the portion is too big, leftovers are carefully cached for later. Since their dietary range is so large, there is no template for a young raven as to what food looks like. They follow their parents to learn about the many tasty tidbits to be found or hunted. Their innate curiosity serves them well when they set out on their own. Ravens check out pretty much everything in their environment, because you just never know what might taste good. They are especially attracted to shiny things – bottle caps, jewelry, bits of glittering glass, but will investigate anything unusual in the landscape.  This use of inquiry ensures that in any situation unusual or rare food will be discovered.   

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