Raven in a tree

The Trickster (Common Raven) – click for larger view

We live among ravens. Day in, day out, the raucous calls, mechanical-sounding “toc” notes and powerful wing swishes of these large birds punctuate our soundscape.

The raven was known to First Nations people as The Trickster, for good reason. This bird lives for up 40 years and has a wide range of vocalizations, from the gentlest “coo” to the harshest “kraak’, and everything in between. Ravens mate for life and often the pair will work together to snag a meal, one bird serving as decoy, the other as bandit.

Over the years I’ve watched these birds extracting treats from compost bins, flying along over top of fast moving cars when interrupted from a roadside meal, soaring overhead in amazing aerial acrobatics, and gathering in great mobs to raid apple orchards. But never, until a couple of weeks ago, had I seen a raven picking flowers.

I was in the kitchen when I noticed flowers falling from our Big Leaf maple tree and landing on the patio. At first I thought it was the wind, but there was barely a breeze. When the flowers kept coming at regular intervals, I figured Squirrelly must be at work. I hadn’t seen him (her?) for awhile, so I went to an upstairs window for an eye-level view.

To my surprise, the flower picker turned out to be a raven, moving about the branches, picking large flower stems and dropping them to the patio below. Was this a form of play? Was he trying to impress his lady love? I saw no indication the bird was eating the flowers, and I couldn’t imagine they would make useful nest building material, so I was at a loss to know what was going on. But then again, it was The Trickster, after all.

Raven holding maple flower stem in beak

Trickster’s Bouquet – click for larger view

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About Laurie MacBride, Eye on Environment

Photographer and writer focusing on nature and the environment

12 responses »

  1. Awesome photographs of one of my favorite birds. When my father was buried (whose last name was Walraven) a raven sitting in a tree less than 20 ft away watched the whole ceremony flying away straight as an arrow after the coffin had been lowered into the grave. That sort of thing makes one wonder what is going on with these birds. Your story here brought this memory back.

    • Thanks so much for sharing that story, Joseph – what a special experience! I agree, these birds are amazing. I think that they likely have a very good (and long) memory, judging by their life span. Oh what stories they could tell! Thanks for visiting and glad you like the photos.

  2. That’s not an easy subject since the details can be lost in the darkness. Great shot, Laurie. Wonder what he was doing with the flowers. Maybe he was just doing it to keep busy? He might have had a plan and then got sidetracked so it was left uncompleted. We have no ravens here in Brighton, Michigan, but we have a few crows. They don’t spend much time in urban areas though.

    • Thanks, Doug. You’re right, the black is tricky – I’ve been trying to print this photo and it’s going to take a bit more work before I am happy with it, as the details disappear way too easily. Interesting re: crows & ravens – it seems to me that where you find one, you don’t find the other. I grew up among crows (in urban Victoria), but here on Gabriola we don’t see them, except when we go down to the shoreline – then the crows dominate. On the rest of the island, especially the forest, the ravens rule.

  3. Quite amazing really…Love the photos.

  4. Phil Lanoue says:

    Terrific shots of this amazing bird!

  5. taphian says:

    very nice photos. I love ravens, too. They are so funny and intelligent

  6. Sherry Galey says:

    My goodness, you certainly got some great close-ups of these fascinating birds. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them this close. And interesting to know some of their tricks!

    • Thanks, Sherry! I managed to get the photos with my 250 mm zoom by standing in our upstairs bathtub, with the camera lens up against the window. The raven was JUST in my frame! We see ravens all the time, but we’re not usually this close either.

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