I have been asked how intelligent birds are. I have written a blog about the size of bird's brains and how they compare to other animals. But, I would like to tell you about a Common Raven that out foxed my husband. He has box turtles in an outdoor enclosure and ravens are notorious for preying on baby box turtles and are listed as a threat to desert tortoises. Now, there was a Common Raven sitting in the mesquite above the box turtle enclosure. Tom had made several runs at the raven waving his hands and hollering. The raven flew in a circle and would land in the tree above the enclosure again. The war continued for a while when the raven landed on the roof of our house. Tom picked a pebble and tossed it, not at the bird, but, on the roof next to the bird hoping to scare it off. The pebble rolled harmlessly half way down the roof and stopped. The raven hopped over to the pebble, picked it up and took off with it. The raven dropped the pebble as it flew over Tom. Final score Raven 1, Tom 0. I went inside and called a contractor to make a wire frame over the outdoor enclosure.
Common Ravens are intelligent. They have been known to play with sticks, dropping the stick and catching it midair. Ravens have stolen golf balls, opened the zippers on camping tents and entered cars with the windows left down at parks. They are known to work in pairs when raiding Marbled Murrelet and Least Tern colonies. One bird will distract the adult seabird and the partner will raid the nest for an egg or a baby birds.
Although not as musical as Mockingbirds, the Common Raven can mimic bird calls and imitate humans. It has been reported that one bird was taught to say the word "nevermore." They can also distinguish between sounds. A study found that gunshots attract ravens in hopes of eating scraps from hunters when they clean their prey. Then the scientists tried to call the ravens with airhorns, the ravens did not respond.
Native people of the northwest believe that the raven is a trickster. They say the raven brought fire from the sun to their people. They also believe that the raven has spread the salmon from the ocean to rivers by flying over rivers and dropping the fish. People also believe that if the ravens leave the Tower of London the British Empire will crumble.
Common Ravens are easily confused with a Chihuahuan Raven. The Common Raven has gray bases to the feathers and the Chihuahuan Raven has white bases. The Common Raven has a longer bill with shorter nasal bristles. For me, the easiest way to distinguish between the two is to hear the call. The Common Raven has a lower voice. Also, the Common Raven is more territorial than the Chihuahuan Raven. You will usually see only one or two Common Ravens unless they are feeding on carrion. The Chihuahuan Raven is often seen in flocks.
Tom's problems seem minor when you compare it to the problems the Goldstone Deep Space Site had because the ravens were fouling the satellite dishes. The Chinal Lake Naval Weapons had problems with ravens peeling radar absorbent materials off of buildings. And, they have been known to cause power outages by contaminating insulators on power lines.
I hope you have learned to appreciate how intelligent ravens are. We did finally win the battle by covering the box turtle enclosure. It was a much simpler and less expensive solution than the government came up with for their problems. If you would like to start a conversation and explain to your friends how intelligent ravens are you may want to wear a raven cap, but be careful or you may end up with a Raven Lunatic Sign.