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For a period in the 1960’s the raven population was declining. This is no longer the case and ravens world-wide are thriving. Indeed, the number of ravens is increasing rapidly. We see them in virtually every habitat in the United States. Like coyotes, they are highly intelligent and constantly adapt to new circumstances and are always solving problems. 


Different raven communities behave differently. Each dawn here in the Ortiz Mountains I observe throngs of mainly adolescent ravens, called, appropriately, gangs, who gather together for one or two years and select mates for life, then depart to secure territories. At present, the gang visiting my home each morning numbers around sixty individuals. It is boisterous. 


Two days ago, I drove into town for errands and supplies and stopped in a gas station/convenience store that seemed nearly under siege by a group of adolescent ravens; their behavior was in stark contrast to the ravens I had observed near my place earlier. The gas station birds behaved like punks, strutting across the parking lot and cawing loudly at customers, grabbing dropped wrappers and fast burrito scraps, blocking the paths of pedestrians and generally displaying attitude. They would take flight only at the last moment to avoid being crushed by moving vehicles.


I plan to do a photo essay on urban raven punks.


All ravens are highly intelligent. While competitive with each other, they seem to share a sense of community as well; ravens teach each other how to build and use tools and toys and will engage in coordinated tactics to drive threatening species away. They exhibit nothing less than compassion for individuals within their group who suffer losses or injury. Yet, they also steal food from each other and appear to delight in defensive strategies… ravens will take pieces of food and hide them, and also pretend to conceal them in one location and then surreptitiously sequester their stash elsewhere, while other birds search the false hide. Technically songbirds, ravens use their raspy voices for a language that continuously evolves; it is thought that ravens assign names for individual people who frequent their territories. Raven voices can mimic human sounds and technologies like baritone parrots.


The amazing survival strategy of ravens is parallel to that of coyotes:  a widely-diverse, omnivorous diet that is flexible; while ravens seem to prefer the meat from carrion, they will eat nearly everything they can digest, from insects, to garbage, to grain, fruits and small rodents and reptiles. They often work in harmony with coyotes, leading them to carcasses they cannot rip apart on their own and also keep eyes on coyotes to join in on what they might find. The Way of the Raven is wise, pragmatic, flexible, by turns competitive and communal, and extremely successful. They display a zest for life often evidenced in their airborne acrobatics and sky surfing antics on windy days.

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