Birding Big Year 2016

December 27, 2015

Corvids are so Raven

Filed under: Uncategorized — wfkeck @ 5:03 pm
1346 Common Raven38

Common Ravens

In the Disney sitcom That’s so Raven, teenager Raven Baxter can see the future. Raven draws on her psychic powers, ingenuity, and talent to get into and out of amusing situations. Sounds like the Corvids I know.  (Corvid – short for Corvidae, the taxonomic family of birds that includes jays, magpies, crows, nutcrackers, and ravens). Corvids are considered to be the smartest of birds and among the most intelligent of all living creatures.  They use tools, are reportedly “self-aware,” and their brain to body mass ratio is off the charts.  Don’t be calling them bird-brained, unless you hold them in the highest regard.


I have great respect for ravens.  On the absolute worst weather day and most extreme condition, I can always find a Common Raven playing in the wind, laughing at lesser birds.  Watch them for a minute.  They are not hunting, they are not trying to get from here to there.  They are more whimsical than expedient. Ravens ply the wind like a child sails a kite or skates on ice. Perhaps it was precisely this characteristic that led Noah to opened the window of the ark and send forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. …And he no doubt had a wonderful time doing it.  But unless I portray the Raven as mere devil-may-care, I admit, I am respectful if not fearful of ravens.

The Hebrew proverb warns, “The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley…” No doubt Hitchcock borrowed and expounded upon that fear with raven’s diminutive cousin, (the equally sinister crow) in the 1963 cinematic thriller.  Who can forget the image of crows amassed and attacking children at the playground in The Birds?  Quoth the raven nevermore? But I simply must! Could Poe have picked a more perfect creature for that eerie and dark poem? “Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!’  Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’  Dan Fogelberg the balladeer  picks up where his fellow artists left off.  He portrays a succubus as the darkest of Corvids:

I see the raven’s made
Her nest in your eyes
She’s got you thinking that
Her love is a prize
And you’ll go under from
The weight of her lies
As the raven flies

Corvids do not only portray harbingers of death and messengers of judgement, but also servants of life.  While mankind may depict the raven as dark and devious; The Creator paints him differently, thus he retains my respect.  Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Not only does He feed them, but he once commanded them to feed a man given psychic power. God directed the prophet Elijah,  Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.  You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”  So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. … And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening…”

My Pinyon Jays are back.  Their seed-filled beaks hammering against the deck rails are keeping rhythm with my fingers on the keyboard.  They split the sunflower shells on impact.  More than a dozen are fast at work, and the sound is loud, annoying, if not haunting.  And yet I have adopted them, and to a large extent am lonely without them.  These jays, like crows and magpies are very gregarious; whereas my scrub jays prefer the company of no more than two or three.  Ravens will on occasion gather in groups, but like the scrub jay seem most content alone or with few.  All are extroverts compared to most passerines.

Last week I stood in the heart of the snow-piled City of Rocks – not another human in sight, nor a sound to my ear save one: a raven’s laugh. On similar junctures the voice was that of my favorite Corvid the Clark’s Nutcracker.  Almost exclusively his cranky call is heard at 6,000 feet sea level or higher.  The higher the better.  He is my companion of the mountain.  My Pinyon Jays and scrub jays prefer the lower altitudes, so that I am never deprived of the family.  Ravens have no preference or mortal allegiance, they are omnipresent and it would seem omniscient.  They know where they are to be and when, as if the Master shares His secrets and then bids them go.

The Big Year is but four days hence.  I know I can count on listing within the first hour of daylight the Black-billed Magpie and Common Raven.  I am reasonably assured of checking off the American Crow, Western Scrub Jay and Pinyon Jay.  Should I be so blessed by the Master of the birds, I pray He sends me a Clark’s Nutcracker.  That would be the ultimate Corvidae (pun intended), or as the kids say, that would be so raven’.


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