Ravens, our year-round neigh­bours in town and coun­try

The Labradorian - - Editorial - Gary Shaw

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.

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