A bird worth raven about

 ?If men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows.?

-Rev.Henry Ward Beecher mid 1800?s (?Bird Brains?)

 I love ravens. However, it?s important not to overcook them. They?re not a turkey. And remember, a little rosemary goes a very long way.

Okay, so I have never ate a raven. However, I have been known to eat a lot of crow.

I really am fond of ravens. In fact, I am enamored of the entire Corvid family – ravens, crows, magpies and jays – but strictly in an observational sense, not a culinary one I?m a sucker for a sense of humour, and as the undisputed brains of the bird family, Corvids possess a wicked sense of comedy. And cleverness.

In Japan?s Sendai City, crows have even figured out a way to turn cars into nutcrackers. The birds fly to the top of traffic lights, holding walnuts in their beaks. When the light turns red, the crows fly down and carefully position the walnut in the intersection and then return to their perch. When the light turns green the vehicles move forward, breaking open the walnuts in their path. When the light turns red again, the crows fly back down and claim their prize. Imagine!

Still, clever as a crow might be, it?s the raven I love most. I don?t know why they?ve been given such a bad rap. Love them as I do, even I wouldn?t choose to say, release ravens at the end of my wedding ceremony. For one thing, not only does a raven possess a sense of humour, he packs a deadly aim. It?s one thing to have people blow soap bubbles at you, but quite another to be splattered by ravens. Especially when you consider the size of the bird.

I once read about a researcher who was given the unhappy task of shooting a raven so it could be examined. Reluctantly he took aim, but only managed to nick the raven?s tail feathers. The raven circled overhead and then dropped its own load of ammunition with great precision, squarely on the man?s head. Far from annoyed, the researcher returned to the station feeling he had got no less than he deserved and vowed to never shoot at a raven again.

Maybe the reason I like ravens so much is because I?m Canadian. There?s that saying about fire fighters rushing in when everyone else is running out. That?s how I see the raven. While summer birds frantically flap south with the fall frost, the ravens rush in. Not only do they choose winter, they seem to enjoy it. The other day I watched a pair of ravens tobogganing in the parking lot of Canadian Tire. True story. They had found a small icy hill and were taking turns hiking to the top and then sliding down on their tails. If they were wearing little toques and shouting, ?Whoo hoo!? I?m not sure I would have been surprised. I have even heard of ravens hanging by one foot from a telephone line hot dogging it for their mates. In my opinion, it?s only a matter of time before we see them playing pond hockey.

There?s a certain satisfaction that comes from having such an intelligent bird choose to live in the same place as I do. It is also inspiring to see something capable of flight, choose to spend an afternoon tobogganing. Here?s a bird who knows what it?s like to soar through the skies, yet finds delight in sliding down a slippery slope. Maybe it means flight and sandy beaches aren?t all they?re cracked up to be. Or that tobogganing and snowy landscapes are. Which is a good thing, given the fact I?m surrounded by snow and ice with no flight plans or beaches in sight for a very, very, long time.


Shannon McKinnon observes ravens and other members of the Corvid family from her home in the Peace River country. Visit her online at www.shannonmckinnon.com