Ghastly, grim, and ancient raven

Here is a bird which is well-known is our area.
Actually, the raven is well-known in a great many places—all of northern Europe and Asia, the British Isles, northern North America, and down the Rockies in the southern U.S.
Around here, you will see ravens almost anywhere you go. In town, they look for scraps and garbage. In the forest, they look for dead animals or small live animals and birds.
On the farm, they will take young chickens, corn, and steal the poultry feed. Everyone can find ravens—sometimes all too easily.
The raven is a bird which is hard to mistake for anything else. Its size, with a wingspan of nearly four feet, might cause you to mistake it for one of the large hawks.
You also might mistake it for its very close relative, the Common Crow, but three things enable you to tell the difference easily. For one thing, the raven croaks while the crow has a distinctive caw.
Secondly, the raven’s tail is wedge-shaped; the crow’s nearly square cut. And thirdly, the raven has a shaggy-looking throat while the crow does not.
Ravens will eat anything—alive or long dead. They are noted for eating carrion, and will wait with infinite patience near a wolf-kill until the wolves have finished.
They are expert at finding dead things. If you see a crowd of ravens circling above the trees, you can be sure there is something dead or dying down below them.
They actually can kill animals as large as lambs or small fawns. In Labrador, they are quite expert at killing those cute newborn baby seals.
Stories about ravens and food are many. One concerns the way in which pairs of these birds conspire to get food away from the Arctic sled dogs.
One would stay just barely beyond the reach of the chained dog, nearly driving him out of his mind, while the other raven would sneak in behind the dog and make off with his frozen fish dinner.
Then the two would take off to eat their ill-gotten gains.
Ravens have been the subject of superstition for centuries. Their hoarse croaking was supposed to be an evil omen. The shadow of a raven’s wing crossing the path of a bride meant disaster for the marriage.
The Stuart kings believed England would fall if the raven ever left the Tower of London (they are still there, by the way).
I suppose we all remember at least something from Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous poem, “Quoth the raven—nevermore.”
The raven, Corvus corax, is our largest “songbird.” Large, strong, black, and intelligent, he is at home on the cliffs of Norway, the top of the Himalayas, the mountains of Nevada, or here in the evergreen forests of home.

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