Ravens
Evermore
“At times the [raven’s] voice resembled liquid gurgling through a pipe. Then it became a drum and, soon after, a rattle.”

“The pair of ravens began to spiral upward on a thermal. ...They would hurtle earthwards for hundreds of feet, then unfold their wings and let the speed begin to carry them upward. higher and steeper, until they nosed over into the next plunge....

They made halfrolls, full barrel rolls, corkscrew dives, and backward loops. They carried out maneuvers in perfect tandem, wing tips often touching.... Finally, they few straight ahead for awhile, but did so upsidedown.” (102))

In Europe, a flock of ravens is called an “unkindness”---pests, thieves, devil-birds, vermin, bounty (when killed). But the raven was also sacred to Apollo, Greek god of light and the intellect, and among Native Americans it has many names like Great Inventor, Giant, Greedy One, Real Chief, He-With-the-Sun-In-His-Mouth. Among the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples of the Pacific Northwest, the raven is a sign of the presence of the Creator of all life.

“‘Raven is everything.... He is a transformer who can turn himself into a hemlock needle; he is a trickster; or he is human.’---Tony Hunt, a chief of the Kwagulth tribe. [109]

“With other animals, you can usually throw out 90 percent of the stories you hear about them as exaggerations. With ravens it’s the opposite. No matter how strange or amazing the story, the chances are pretty good that at least some raven somewhere actually did that.” ---Mark Pavelka, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [115]



---primary text source: Douglas H. Chadwick, “Ravens: Legendary Bird Brains.” National Geographic 195.1 (Jan. 1999): 100-15. Photographs Michael S. Quinton and (the raven print in the snow below) Bernd Heinrich.

The above article inspired several letters from readers telling of raven exploits. These were printed in the May 1999 National Geographic letters column near the front of the issue.

“Years ago while in Yellowknife in the Northwestern Territories of Canada I was awakened by the howling of a dog. Looking from my hotel window, I determined the source: the dog was chained to his dog-house, and just in front of his nose a raven was teasing him. Meanwhile, the raven’s partner was eating the contents of the dog’s bowl. Minutes later the pair traded places. At the end the dog was hoarse and probably hungry.”
---Jean-Pierre Germain
Landgraaf, Netherlands

“A couple of years ago my work took me to Whitehorse in the Yukon. The temperature that winter dropped as low as minus 45 degrees Celsius. Someone pointed out what the ravens were doing to survive. They would cover the light sensors on the streetlights with their wings, causing the lights to turn on and giving them the opportunity to warm up on top of them.”
---Pat Carvacho
Ontario, Canada


“My famiy had a pet raven for 25 years. Our raven spoke and made chicken and horse sounds. He took the voices of my three brothers and me, so it was very hard to distinguish if it was the raven calling or if it was a brother. When we were young, he would wait for the school bus and say each of our names as we arrived. Ravens are truly remarkable creatures. I hope their intelligence is researched more fully.”
---John Millican,
Amarillo, Texas, USA

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