Ravens aren’t just feathered machines, rigidly programmed by their genetics. Instead, they are beings that, within the constraints of their molecular inheritance, make complex decisions and show every sign of enjoying a rich awareness. —Candace Savage
~The brains of common ravens count among the largest of any bird species. Specifically, their hyperpallium is large. For a bird, they display ability in problem solving, as well as other cognitive processes such as imitation and insight.
~ Ravens are considered the most intelligent birds, displaying high learning ability and use of logic for solving problems, in some tests bypassing the chimpanzees. In one experiment, a raven had to reach a piece of meat dangling from strings bound to perches. To get to the food, a raven had to follow a series of actions: pull up a string stretch, hold a loop of it on the perch with a claw, then pull up another stretch and hold that loop. The birds had to repeat the action 6 times till getting the meat, while even after 30 trial crows did not succeed.
~ Ravens could perform this complex sequence of actions straight away and they have never seen string before or encountered meat hanging this way. These birds pass very well complex tests, including “no tests” or “trial and error” ones that involve logic.
~Linguist Derek Bickerton, building on the work of Bernd Heinrich, has recently argued that ravens are one of only four known animals (the others being bees, ants, and humans) who have demonstrated displacement, the capacity to communicate about objects or events that are distant in space or time from the communication. Young, unmated common ravens roost together at night, but usually forage alone during the day.
~However, when one discovers a large carcass guarded by a pair of adult ravens, he will return to the roost and communicate his find. The next day, a flock of young ravens will fly to the carcass, and chase off the adults. Bickerton argues that the advent of linguistic displacement was perhaps the most important event in the evolution of human language, and that ravens are the only other vertebrate to share this with humans.
Some notable feats of problem-solving provide evidence that the common raven is unusually intelligent. Over the centuries, it has been the subject of mythology, folklore, art, and literature. In many cultures, it has even been revered as a spiritual figure or god.
There are even several references to common ravens in the Old Testament of the Bible.
In Norse mythology, Huginn (from the Old Norse for “thought”) and Muninn (Old Norse for “memory” or “mind”) are a pair of ravens that fly all over the world, Midgard, and bring the god Odin information. Additionally among the Norse, Raven banner standards were carried by such figures as the Jarls of Orkney, King Cnut the Great of England, Norway and Denmark, and Harald Hardrada.
In the British Isles, ravens also were symbolic to the Celts.
In Irish mythology, the goddess Morrígan alighted on the hero Cú Chulainn’s shoulder in the form of a raven after his death.
In Welsh mythology they were associated with the Welsh god Bran the Blessed, whose name translates to “raven.” According to the Mabinogion, Bran’s head was buried in the White Hill of London as a talisman against invasion.
A legend developed that England would not fall to a foreign invader so long as there were ravens at the Tower of London; although this is often thought to be an ancient belief, the official Tower of London historian, Geoff Parnell, believes that this is actually a romantic Victorian invention. In the Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions, the raven was the first animal to be released from Noah’s Ark.
“So it came to pass, at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made. Then he sent out a raven, which kept going to and fro until the waters had dried up from the earth. He also sent out from himself a dove, to see if the waters had receded from the face of the ground.”
The raven is mentioned a dozen times in the Bible. In the New Testament Jesus tells a parable using the raven to show how people should rely on God for their needs and not riches – (Luke 12:24)
~Common ravens are known to steal and cache shiny objects such as pebbles, pieces of metal, and golf balls. One theory is that they hoard shiny objects to impress other ravens. Other research indicates that juveniles are deeply curious about all new things, and that common ravens retain an attraction to bright, round objects based on their similarity to bird eggs.
~There has been increasing recognition of the extent to which birds engage in play. Juvenile common ravens are among the most playful of bird species. They have been observed to slide down snowbanks, apparently purely for fun.
~ Due to their intelligence, ravens are very playful. They prank with the wolves. Once a raven headed towards a sleeping wolf and pinched it by its tail. When the wolf woke up, the bird jumped out. When the wolf approached tiptoe to the raven, the bird let it approach till about 30 cm and flew away, landing within a few meters of the wolf’s back and repeating the prank.
~ They even have a call that Wolves recognize, if a Raven comes across an animal who is too large or that has skin too thick for a Raven’s beak they call in the Wolves. The Ravens watch from nearby as the Wolves tear it apart and when they’re finished the Ravens swoop in and get the leftover chunks and pieces like an order from the butcher.
~ Another raven played with wolf cubs. When the cubs had enough of playing, the raven croaked till they started playing again. In Yellowknife (northwestern Canada) ravens perched on the roofs of supermarkets waited for people to pass so that they could push snow on them.
~Common ravens are known for spectacular aerobatic displays, such as flying in loops or interlocking talons with each other in flight. They can also soar high above the trees, unlike crows, which rely on active flight.
~They are also one of only a few wild animals who make their own toys and tools. They have been observed breaking off twigs to play with socially.
~ They also have been known to get intoxicated using ants. Letting them cover and bite the bird and then shaking them off after they’d had enough toxin to “feel good”
~ The Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Semitic and Siberian legends depict the raven as a messenger of storms or bad weather. In African, Asian and European legends, the raven forecasts death. Shakespeare presents ravens as messengers or exponents of evil (like in “Julius Caesar”, “Macbeth” and “Othello”), while in “Titus Andronicus” they are described as benefactors feeding abandoned children. In his poem “The Raven”, Edgar Allan Poe associates this bird with lost love and despair.
~Ravens are incredibly smart, amazing animals. It’s not hard to understand the reason they have such a mystique once you learn about them, their interactions with humas the crizns and impact over time have nto doubt been more than we’ll ever really know.