Ravens, our year-round neighbours in town and country
We often take for granted things we are exposed on a regular basis, that’s human nature. The year round presence and high numbers of ravens we encounter both around town and in the country is a regular and familiar site for us, most days.
These birds are found all across the Northern Hemisphere and are widely distributed throughout Labrador. Although there are at least eight subspecies, the common raven in Labrador is a constant presence for us to see no matter where we may be.
When these birds reach maturity they can be up to 25 inches in length and weigh in at around 2.6 pounds. These very versatile and opportunistic birds have been known to live up to 21 years in the wild.
Common ravens have coexisted among humans for thousands of years and have had healthy numbers to the point that they are from time to time, deemed as pests. If you have ever left a garbage bag on the deck in town or at the cabin or even in the back of a truck, you know the mess they can make.
A big part of their success and survival is attributed to their opportunistic and versatile ability to find protein for their diet in almost anything. Insects, carrion, small animals and any food waste is on their list — they will eat almost anything.
These birds are extremely intelligent and possess great problem solving abilities. Over the centuries these birds have been attached to many myths and folklore stories and in many Indigenous cultures, the raven has been revered as a spirit like creature.
When these birds reach maturity they usually mate for life with each mated pair defending their own territory. Young birds will often spend time in small flocks until they reach maturity. Relationships between ravens are often quarrelsome among their own species, but exhibit considerable devotion to their family units.
Juvenile birds will often begin courtship behaviour at an early age but may not bond with a permanent mate for two or three years. Breeding pairs will identify a permanent territory before they begin to build their nest. They will defend their territory and available food resources aggressively.
Their nests are built in a deep bowl shape constructed of sticks, with an inner layer of roots, mud and often lined with moss or any animal fur that they can find.
The females will lay between three to seven pale green and brown blotched eggs with an incubation period of between 18 to 21 days, all done by the female. The young will fledge in 35 to 42 days and are fed by both parents.
As we live our lives in Labrador, it’s hard not see these birds as they engage in their day to day activities among us. We can’t help but notice the constant interaction that these birds engage in, as they seem to play together in flight. They are very acrobatic in flight, they fly, making great loops and even locking talons with each other in flight. It all seems to be an exercise in sport for them. It also seems that the windier it is the more engaged they are in their displays.
At the end of the day, as we observe these incredible birds, we can’t help but be amazed at their flying capabilities and how they manage to survive extremely well in such a harsh and unforgiving environment Labrador throws at them.