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June 09, 2012


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debbie ann

"What changed to make residents of wild regions feel so comfortable in the city?"

doesn't it seem like it could be expansion of city space and destruction of wild regions?

"but it's not nature's way for there to be so many ravens. " - how do we know? is it nature's way for there to be so many people?


Just yesterday we were watching a gang of juvenile raven party it up in the sycamore trees over Siretta Street in Kernville. Their antics were wildly amusing., but I don't ever remember seeing quite so many in one place before.

Jonelle Patrick

Here in Tokyo, there's such a raven menace that garbage has to be put out under anti-crow nets and parks have warnings about being dive-bombed from above! All over Japan, eradication efforts have been foiled by crafty ravens, including a population that built fake nests for city workers to destroy, then moved their REAL nests elsewhere!

Susan McCarthy

debbie ann, good questions. As far as the increase of ravens in urban areas, the destruction of wild regions and the expansion of city space has been going on for a long time, but the explosion of corvid numbers in cities is much more recent. So I think raven culture looks like the leading explanation at present.

As for nature's way, let me say that I'm using that phrase in refutation of people who say that ravens/cats killing birds is just nature's way, get over it.

How we know it's not nature's way for there to be so many ravens is by looking at the raven's ecological niche. In the natural state, prey outnumber predators by far: lots of rabbits, a few coyotes. Lots of antelope, a few lions. Ravens are mostly scavengers -- they're predators too in nesting season, but that doesn't work year-round. Scavengers also have to be outnumbered by prey for things to be sustainable. The reason this isn't working that way in the city is that ravens are riding on our coattails.

Which brings us to the question about whether it's nature's way for there to be so many people. It's not. I wonder how long we can keep it up?

Susan McCarthy

Raven party in the sycamores! Why do they never invite me? I have plenty of black outfits!

Susan McCarthy

Jonelle, I am not completely sure about the crow/raven situation in Japan. I think the famous crows (all over YouTube!) are Corvus macrorhynchus, the Large-billed Crow/Japanese Crow/Jungle Crow. There are ravens in Japan too, but my impression is that they are more traditional ravens and hang out in winter in mountains and along the coasts, scavenging on... carcasses. I guess the crows haven't told them about garbage.

debbie ann

thank you for answering Susan. You are right, we shouldn't feed any wild animals, and in the past I have fed a pair of ravens because I enjoyed interacting w them so much. I'll try to be content w just watching ravens. The ravens in Sydney are fabulous to watch.

Susan McCarthy

debbie ann -- Wow. Thank you for telling me that. Especially since the likelihood of your coming across a moose carcass is so low in Sydney.

SA Jacobs

geez, next thing you'll be telling us we can't chain wild animals together in a barrel for SCIENCE.

Susan McCarthy

That's right, and no chaining them in a barrel for ART, either. If you won't follow that rule for me, do it for the barrel.

xtine superfest

Oh, leaving the moose carcass out for ravens! What a good idea. And who am I kidding, anyway -- I am never going to make that moose stock, and this will free up so much space in my freezer.

Susan McCarthy

xtine superfest, you are wise. Moose cassoulet sounds cool, but I really don't think it's worth a special effort.

John Klein

I've heard that raven chicks eat the worms found in their parents droppings. Is this true? If not, what food do the parents provide to raven chicks?

Susan McCarthy

Sounds like you've been hearing anti-raven propaganda. There are no droppings in the nest.

Once chicks have fledged & are out of the nest, I'm sure they'd eat any worm they spotted. But in my (volunteer) work with birds, I never see worms in their droppings. (I don't work with ravens, though.) There are surely microscopic worms, but ravens can't see them.

Ravens are omnivores, & eat different arrays of foods in different habitats. City ravens probably provide a lot of human food/garbage to their chicks (you gonna eat those fries...?). Ravens in agricultural areas will provide a lot of grain to their chicks. Ravens in forest or tundra areas will feed chicks a lot more carrion, although ravens everywhere like a carcass.

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