Something Wild
12:00 am
Fri January 11, 2013

The Common Raven Is Exceptional

The stately Raven has garnered many connotations over the years, chief among them are for the bird’s intelligence. Additionally, this largest of songbirds is also known for is aerobic alacrity - flying upside down, doing barrel, etc - and playful proclivities.

Stories of their intelligence abound, including one that involves Cheetos. A wildlife biologist was attempting to trap and band ravens. To lure them in, he spread Cheetos on snow and the bright orange color soon attracted several ravens, which were then snared by leg traps under the snow.

But the ruse worked just once. Other ravens arriving at the scene in response to hearing a vocalized food alert by the first group, halted when they noticed other ravens perched nearby but not eating the Cheetos. The tricksters of the bird world would not be tricked again.

Stories like this are pretty common in the northeast, but that wasn’t always the case. When Edgar Allen Poe, for example, wrote about his seminal midnight visitor that "came a tapping . . . gently rapping . . . at the chamber door," there weren't many ravens in the East.

They are historically associated with the buffalos and wolves of the Great Plains. But when buffalo numbers crashed, these plucky omnivores quickly expanded that range.

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