Thursday, May 11, 2006


Digital collage - S. Auberle


If there was ever a doubt that members
of the corvid family (ravens, crows, magpies, etc.)
are intelligent, we're here to say: THEY ARE

We have a pair of ravens in our yard that are
getting downright spooky. The male is a big bird,
his headfeathers fluffed up in this mating season
to make him look even larger. He is immensely
curious about us, constantly looking in the windows,
pecking on the frame, trying to get in--his wings
flapping mightily against the glass. This morning,
at dawn, I looked up at the skylight to see him
peering quizzically down at me, as if to say,
well, when are you going to let me in? He has a
unique, three-note call--always the same--always
recognizable from all the other ravens. He pales,
however, next to the object of his affections: a sleek,
glossy female whom he is obviously smitten with,
trailing behind her all the day long.

This lady raven has figured out, in a complicated,
three-step move, how to remove the inside packet
of suet from the holder, fling aside the plastic wrap
and enjoy a delicious meal of peanut butter and
seeds. First she lifts the ring holding the suet feeder,
which allows it to slide down the pole to the deck rail,
where she opens the spring-held latch, then removes
the suet container from the holder. A three step
experience in logic!

We don't know if she shares this sumptuous delicacy
with her suitor or not. Perhaps it's the hope of this
that holds his attention; perhaps it's that he values
her mind over her sleek body. Perhaps these birds
aren't even birds at all. Down through the ages,
in many different cultures, mythologies speak of
Raven as the trickster, the messenger, the

"The raven is almost universally familiar, a large
ebony bird the size of a hawk, but utterly lacking
the hawk's dignity, fierceness and strength. What
the raven has is a gift of cleverness and a potent
ego, combined with audacious wit."

-Richard K. Nelson
"Make Prayers to the Raven"


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