Gorgeous Raven Pictures

I really wanted to share these photographs with all of you the moment I seen them!

According to the photographer, Lars…the story behind these photographs is that they “were driving the wild, winding and steep roads of the mountains of Gran Canaria when they came to this spot where they sold chocolate and soft drinks. The view were absolutely fantastic and there was this raven that sat on the wall towards the steep fall to the sea below. It was obviously quite tame. Perhaps it was accustomed to get small bits of food from the tourists that stopped every now and then.”

Are the words Ravenous and Raven related?

Simply, no. But…

One could easily imagine the word ravenous, meaning ‘voracious, very hungry’, originating from the word raven. Particularly, if you have ever watched raven nestlings eat. They need to eat every couple of hours and not just snacks either. Bernd Heinrich in the Mind of the Raven gives us a snippet of exactly how much these young birds can consume. Here is a sample 4 day diet for (6) five-week old nestlings he was caring for:

Day One: One woodchuck and one snowshoe hare (roadkills that [he] froze and then chopped up—skin, bones, guts, and all—into bite-sized chunks and thawed before feeding).

Day Two: Three red squirrels, one chipmunk, six frogs, eight chicken eggs (crunched up shells and all).

Day Three: Two gray squirrels, five frogs, six eggs, six mice.

Day Four: One hindquarter of a Holstein calf.

Picture this food in relation to these birds—raven fledglings—around half a foot long. THAT IS A LOT OF FOOD for their size.

However, the correlation between the word ravenous and raven is simply happenstance. While ravens do happen to be very hungry, the word raven or ‘ravin’ is of Germanic descent appearing around 800 AD. The raven’s name comes from the Germanic root ‘khraben’ which is thought to have arisen as an imitation of the harsh, grating call of the raven itself.1

On the other hand the word ravenous is of Latin descent originally.2 This can be a bit confusing so let me try to keep the lifeline of this word simplified.

  • ‘Ravenous’ is derived from the Old French word ‘ravineux’ (original meaning: ‘violent rush, robbery‘).
  • ‘Ravineux’ is derived from the Old French word ‘raviner’.
  • ‘Raviner’ is derived from the Latin word ‘rapinare’.
  • ‘Rapinare’ is derived from ‘rapina’ (original meaning: robbery, plunder, booty).
  • ‘Rapina’ is derived from the Classical Latin word ‘rapere’ (original meaning: drag off; snatch; destroy).
  • ‘Rapere’ is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root I ‘*rep-‘

The verb form of ravenous is “to raven”. It is quite proper to use the word in its verb form or in its present participle form ‘ravening’ which means “to search for or consume food voraciously.” Can any of you come up with some good uses of this word? If so, I will post them. =)

So…no, ravenous and raven are not related etymologically speaking but we can still appreciate the correlation, can’t we?

While raven, in the bird sense, is as common as the bird—it seems the word ravenous in any of its forms is simply disappearing in everyday conversation. Tsk, tsk, tsk… We are fast losing so many wonderful words—forgotten—replaced with the ever-so-annoying text-speak.

  1. http://www.word-detective.com/021804.html []
  2. http://www.myetymology.com/english/ravenous.html []

Caching Corvids

Did you know that the corvid-family of birds cache food for later — saving it in multiple spots for many months? They also watch other birds cache food and steal it–moving it for themselves. They are sneaky. They pay attention. This is interesting. There brain size to body ratio is relative to primates. They are social. We really enjoy watching them interact, eat and check things out.

Crows in a tree...
Crows in a tree...

Their ability to remember for long periods of time is fascinating. Some corvids have been observed recovering food caches up to 250 days after hiding them. Studies suggest this is due to their ability to use spatial memory ability. What is located next to what — such as many children do.1 “By the McDonalds over by my school mommy.” This is simply astonishing to me that corvids have such an excellent memory.

Maybe their abilities to cache food and to forward-think help them to survive when other birds are not doing so well.2

  1. http://www.pigeon.psy.tufts.edu/asc/Balda/Default.htm#IV._Cache_Recovery_Tests_of_Spatial_Memory_ []
  2. http://www.audubon.org/news/CBID_NYTimes.html []

Common Ravens and Egg


Common Ravens and Egg

Originally uploaded by poecile05

This is the second raven baby/egg photograph and post. Thanks to the photographer, poecile05, for sharing this on flickr and allowing us to blog it.

If you read yesterday’s post, you know how much a baby raven can and must consume. I shared with you a small part of a book I read, “Mind of the Raven” by Bernd Heinrich.

The high maintenance baby ravens don’t stop with just a need for attention and an enormous amount of food. They also require some special attention to see to their “bathroom” needs, if you will. You may recall from yesterday’s post that nestlings eat A LOT of food. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Yep! That is right. Almost every amount that goes into the baby ravens must come out. Since they can’t lift themselves up to hang over the side of the nest for at least a couple of weeks, their parents must take care of this expediently. Remember, if they eat six woodfrogs and two mice IN ONE FEEDING, then you can imagine how much waste that much food produces after EACH and EVERY FEEDING! They would quite literally be drowning in a bowl (their nest) full of their own liquid dung (also known as ‘mutes’).

In order to prevent this from happening, the parents scoop up the “mute” with their beaks as it is coming out and dumps it over the side of the nest. They are the equivalent of live pooper-scoopers. Not so fun, not so simple. Imagine how much time this takes and then recall how much food they need. You can see clearly how much time parenting takes in a raven’s life.

We are lucky as humans that we only need to go to the local grocery store to obtain food for our young. Imagine the raven’s life…

Corvus frugilegus (The Rook)


Communique

Originally uploaded by Mark Cummins

Another excellent photograph found on flickr. This one is by Mark Cummins. If you click on the photograph it will take you to the URL where it is originally posted.

I am not 100% certain what particular bird this is in the corvidae family. However, I think it might be a rook but I am reluctant to say this for certain with authority because I am not so familiar with rooks to recognize off the top of my head. It looks like a rook and it looks like it the same bird I previously posted by the same photographer and it was a rook. So, I imagine it is either the same bird or a similar one. =)

This is the Corvus frugilegus which means “food-gathering” in Latin. They are more commonly referred to as the Rook. I have not had the great pleasure of seeing this bird in person but I am very excited to learn about it. It looks like a harsher, thinner crow. It appears, to me, to have had a hard-knock-life. I like how it wears its character, much like I relish the quirks in people; a wrinkle earned through years of laughter and tears, an innocent freckle just above the wrist, the shy happiness in a crooked smile, the confident swing of a left-leaning gait.

From what I’ve learned about the Rook, you can differentiate it from similar corvids by looking for the “bare gray-white skin around the base of the adult’s bill in front of the eyes or the feathering around the legs; it looks shaggier and laxer than the congeneric Carrion Crow.”1

It seems it is found all over Europe and east of Europe. I read that it is found in Great Britain quite frequently.

Where Rooks Live...
Normal Range of Habitat for the Rook (Where Rooks Live...)

Much like all corvids, it is a survivor. It will eat just about anything depending on where it lives. It prefers earthworms and insect larvae but will eat cereal grain, fruit, insects, crustaceans, small animals, acorns, bird eggs, and will pilfer through the trash for food scraps in urban areas.2

The Rook nests together in a colony. This is commonly referred to as colonial nesting which means nesting with many other birds in a safe place and living commune-style. The Rooks learn from one another and find food together. They protect one another but they are still predatory birds, so they can be found stealing from another from time to time. They prefer to nest way up high in trees. They typically have 3-5 eggs which are incubated for 16-18 days and the fledglings are cared for by their parents and other rooks for about a month.

Once fully fledged, they get together with other single rooks and sometimes even jackdaws and fly around, presumably deciding who they will mate with in the future. Or perhaps just enjoying the free, young, single life…flying around without a care.

You can hear a rook here.
It sounds much like most crows but maybe a little throatier which matches how they look, for me anyways. =) I like their throaty “caw”.

Rooks are interesting birds. And so they are written about…people speculate about their abilities and even conjure up powers for these intelligent birds. I found the following on Wikipedia… it is a direct copy and paste but interesting.

Like many other members of the Corvidae family, the Rook features prominently in folklore. Traditionally, Rooks are said to be able to forecast weather and to sense the approach of death. If a rookery — the colonial nesting area of rooks — were abandoned, it was said to bring bad fortune for the family that owned the land. Another folk-tale holds that rooks are responsible for escorting the souls of the virtuous dead to heaven. William Butler Yeats may be making reference to the latter tale in his poem The Cold Heaven.

In Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic book series, Abel reveals that the parliament would surround a single rook, with that one telling a story. If the story was not liked, the parliament would attack and kill the speaker.

In Brian Jacques’s Redwall series, rooks make an appearance in Mattimeo. Rooks, along with magpies and other similar birds make up the army of General Ironbeak, one of the villains in the book.

In Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series, rooks are seen as agents of the Dark and the sign-seeker, Will Stanton is warned never to fully trust one.

In Phillip Pullman’s book Northern Lights Lyra Belacqua and Roger Parslow catch and heal an injured rook on the college rooftop.

In Stephen King’s Dark Tower entry Wizard and Glass, one of the characters, Cuthbert Allgood, carries a rook’s skull tied around his neck, claiming it as a good luck charm.

I am now an official fan of the Rook. I may always have been but I simply did not know it.

Do YOU have a Rook story to share with me? I would love to hear one (or many!) If so, e-mail me below.

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  1. Wikipedia []
  2. Wikipedia []

Corvids: a symbol of pride

Corvids are revered as symbols of pride, intelligence, strength throughout the world. Evidence of this can be found in poems, songs, stories, legends and even in heraldry. Many a coat of arms don the corvids as centerpieces, represented proudly. I found a really great page with many coat of arms all with corvids on them. They are definitely worth looking at if you get a chance. I am going to share just a couple of my favorites from this page. If you have a favorite, let me know!

(See more here: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Crows_and_Ravens_in_heraldry)

Red-Billed Blue Magpie (Urocissa erythrorhyncha) 01, Wayfarer Retreat, Vijaypur – 29.10.07

Isn’t this a beautiful bird? This is a “Red-Billed Blue Magpie” and it is in the Corvidae family. Here is what the photographer had to say about this bird:

The Red-billed Blue Magpie is a species of bird in the crow family Corvidae. It is about the same size as the European Magpie but has a much longer tail.

The Red-billed Blue Magpie occurs in a broad swathe from the western Himalayas, eastwards into China and Vietnam in evergreen forest and scrub in predominantly hilly or mountainous country.

Food is sought both in trees and on the ground. It takes the usual wide range of food, such as invertebrates, other small animals, and fruit and some seeds. It robs nests of eggs and also chicks.

The Red-billed Blue Magpie nests in trees and large shrubs in a relatively shallow nest. There are usually three to five eggs laid.

Vocal mimicry is very apparent in this species and its calls are very varied, but the most usual are a grating rattle and a high pitched whistle a little like a flute.