Naturespeak 

The common raven

Corvus corax

Whistler Naturalist Society

Although common by name, the raven can hardly be deemed common by action. Seen throughout the Whistler boundaries, the common raven, Corvus corax , exhibits some of the most interesting and exceptional behaviour.

The raven is commonly confused with the American Crow, and although they reside in the same family, Corvidae , there are obvious differences. The raven is distinguished by its larger size, heftier bill and a wedge shaped tail. The wedge-like tail is an easy field mark when the raven is in flight, when compared to the straightedge of the crow’s tail.

Ravens will mate for life. Courtship games begin in mid-winter and mating begins at this time in the spring. If you are distracted from patiently waiting in lift lines by screeches in the trees, you may have inadvertently discovered a duo getting down to business.

When ready, the female will lay her eggs in a large nest made of twigs, bark and hair built high in the trees or nestled into rocky bluffs. She will protect her brood, while the male brings her food until the eggs are ready to hatch in about three weeks. Both of the proud parents will provide regurgitated goodness to help the little ones gain strength over the next month, until they are ready to leave the nest.

Ravens have an incredibly diverse palate and will travel long distances daily to satisfy unique cravings. Their diet consists of a variety of plants and animals, dead or alive, as well as an entire array of garbage. Opportunistic may be an understatement for a bird that, like hawks and owls, has the ability to regurgitate indigestible items such as bones, fur, teeth and/or plastic in the form of pellets. They can also be very inventive when it comes to challenging meals, using any manor of tools to penetrate hard casings, such as dropping hard nuts or shells from above onto paved or rocky surfaces.

The raven’s large, entirely black façade has entitled it respect, reverence and fear throughout the ages in every manor omen, good and bad. Being the largest of the song birds it demands respect whether dancing in aerial acrobatic performances or soaring through the alpine, undaunted by temperature or wind. The raven is one of the most intelligent birds that use many tones and noises for communication. What I would give to understand their chatters.

Upcoming events:

Saturday, April 5, 7 a.m. — Monthly Bird Walk. Meet at the bottom of Lorimer Road. (Note change of time)

Saturday, April 5: The Whistler Astronomy Club presents GALAXY QUEST Star Party! All night at Cal Chek Campground near the gravel pit. The best time to few the Virgo Cluster of galaxies and the planets Jupiter and Saturn. E-mail stars@nemy.com for more info.

Wednesday, April 16, 6:30-7:30: Lee hosts the first nature walk of the year! Meet at the bottom of Lorimer. Kids are free and everyone else by donation.

For more information on the Whistler Naturalist Society, please contact Veronica Sommerville at veronicarobin@yahoo.ca .

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