Please feel free to comment, correct me if I am wrong, or provide helpful tips of any kind

Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Mar 6, 2011

Raven love : the intelligence of spring fever

Raven's flight silhouette

Several weeks ago I saw a Raven pair in mating flight.  It was minus thirty five degrees outside at the time; very typical February weather for us here in Alberta.   At first I thought perhaps I mistook what I saw.   After all spring, when the weather is warming and things are re-awakening to life, is the season for mating and nesting, as we all know.   But then a little more than a week ago, I saw these same Raven's carrying nesting materials back and forth between the little forest to the west of my house, and their nesting site somewhere to the east, confirming what I had seen.

It seemed a little research was in order, which led me to some very interesting facts about Ravens.   It turns out that they typically mate mid February, although in colder climes, such as Tibet's, they might delay their mating until March, or even April.  The problem is, the temperatures here have remained below the minus twenty eight mark and so I was somewhat puzzled.  While it is true that the weather forecasters predict warmer weather fairly soon, it seems unlikely that the Ravens' young would survive once hatched, less than twenty days from now.   A Raven pair does not mate however, until they have established a territory and demonstrated the ability to defend that territory, as well as the ability to provide food.  So it is unlikely that they would begin nesting if there was no ready food supply available.

Raven foraging

The male feeds the female while she sits the eggs in the nest and I wondered what exactly he would feed her.  It occurred to me that there must be many creatures in the wild who do not survive the cold, or are weakened by it.  Ravens do eat carrion and they also hunt.  In fact, apparently there isn't much that Ravens do not eat, as they are opportunistic feeders and omnivorous besides.

As anyone can observe, Raven's are extremely  intelligent.   So it is unsurprising that they create cashes of food during periods of abundance, and also steal such cashes from other creatures who do the same.   I have seen them dining on Pigeon a number of times and Pigeons are quite numerous in this city.  In addition, Ravens are adept dumpster divers and can be seen quite often near, and on top of the dumpsters at restaurants such as Tim Horton's, Wendy's and Taco Bell.  There are many restaurants in the neighborhood in which I live, well within this Raven pair's newly staked out territory.

Raven in flight

When I got to thinking about what the young would be fed, I realized that their young will actually have an advantage by being delivered early into the world.  Aside from the above mentioned food sources, there is this.   While other birds are struggling with the long and hazardous process of migrating north, the Ravens' young may be fed insects in plenty as they emerge from their winter hiding places with the warming weather.  This, without the competition which would come with the arrival of numerous migrant birds in the spring, were they to be hatched then.  The same can of course be said for other food sources, even carrion.

Raven perched near a dumpster

By the time the Ravens' young have fledged, some  thirty five to forty days after hatching, other birds will have laid their eggs and some may even have hatched.  Although Ravens are certainly not the only birds to do so, and as sad as it is, they do raid the nests of other birds for eggs, as well as hatchlings.  Which makes for easy pickings for newly fledged young Ravens learning to hunt and forage for food on their own. 
Raven in flight close-up
As you can see, it does make sense for the Raven to perform the mating flight and begin nesting, even if it is extremely cold in February.  The Raven is indeed a highly intelligent bird.  There are of course other birds with similar nesting habits, among these is the Great Horned Owl, who begins it's nesting behavior in December, and the Red Tailed Hawk who breeds and nests not long after the Raven in March.  If you wish to learn more about the Raven just follow these links:




No comments:

Post a Comment