Bald Eagles are the specialty of the Alaska Raptor Center, in Sitka. It's an animal hospital in a forest. They treat 100-200 eagles a year, as well as other species. Many are treated and set free. Others have problems that mean they can't make it as wild birds any more. These generally go to zoos or become Ed Birds – used in educational programs of various kinds.
Some of the Ed Birds are in outdoor aviaries. When I visited this summer, one of the Ed Eagles, Volta, on a perch outdoors, became agitated when we passed by. My guide speculated that Volta remembered me unkindly from a previous visit. (Although I am a friend to all animals, on that visit I was taking a course in eagle rehab, which involves doing a number of things that might displease a bird – captures, pedicures, beakicures, etc.) But it turned out that Volta was agitated about a wild eagle flying around the aviaries.
We moved on to view Gilly, an Ed Raven. Gilly came to the center in 1997, as Gilbert, a youth of three months with an elbow so shattered by a gunshot as to rule out wild life. Gilbert became an Ed Bird and at some point, I suppose, was revealed to be female. Gilly was in an outdoor aviary and gave us a haughty uninterested glance. She has a more complex life than one might guess an Ed Raven would have. She was once housed with two other ravens, but they are a couple, who demonstrated loyalty to each other by harassing Gilly, so she was given her own space.
Gilly has a wild friend, Romeo. He visits her frequently, so the Raptor Center thoughtfully put an extra-long perch in her aviary, which projects out through the wiring. Romeo can perch on the outside, and Gilly can perch on the inside, and they can sidle up to each other.
I do not know if Romeo and Gilly are romantically interested in each other. Ravens are fond of shiny things, and Romeo brings Gilly shiny things, and passes them to her through the wire. Gilly accepts them and passes Romeo bits of her food. She's no fool – she doesn't give him her salmon or her meat. She gives him vegetables and popcorn. Maybe she's concerned about his weight.
They won't do this if you're standing right there. But if you're a few aviaries away, you can look through several wire walls and see Romeo arrive and the subsequent exchanges. I long for the Raptor Center to set up a RavenSwapCam.
It may be love, it may be commerce, or it may be a happy mix of the two. In any case it shows the complexity of ravens.