Herding Ravens

Virtually all of the seasonal birds – the song birds – have departed for destinations south for the remainder of the year. I’ve been feeling their absence more intensely than I ever anticipated. More on that in an upcoming post.

The remaining birds are those who fly these skies year round: mostly red-tailed hawks, magpies, and ravens.

I wrote recently about ravens, about one who followed my dogs and me as we ran a mountain trail, which got me thinking about ravens in general and their co-dependent relationship with wolves in particular. They’re amazing birds.

A couple nights ago, watching and photographing a pretty sunset from my yard, I was reminded that – unlike me – my Aussie Finn isn’t so fond of ravens. I’m sure that encounter on the trail two years ago didn’t improve his opinion of them. This year, though, Finn started barking at ravens that fly over our house. He doesn’t bark at any other birds, including those resembling ravens that soar above us (turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks). No, Finn knows his ravens and he doesn’t like them.

sunset
The sunset I was admiring as the drama began. See the ravens?

On this particular night, three ravens had the audacity to fly near our yard. It was a lucky happenstance that they appeared in the photos I took of the sunset.

sunset with birds
The zoomed, blurry crop of the three ravens flying through my sunset shot.

The herding instinct in Finn came through loud and clear as he barked at the ravens as soon as he spotted them from a distance, flying over neighboring lots. Sometimes – like just happened as I was typing this – he’s inside the house and hears one calling through an open window so he dashes out the dog door to make sure that particular raven or his friends stay out of his/our space. If ravens fly directly over the house or yard, Finn barks while running across the fenced yard area, shooing them, herding them away. In his mind, his efforts are successful because – every time! – they do indeed fly away. Positive reinforcement at its best.

dogs in yard
Finn has just chased the ravens away – success! Conall is Finn’s his lackadaisical backup.
ravens flying, forest, fence
Cropped close-up of the poor ravens, herded by Finn, searching for a peaceful perch in the forest.

Once the ravens disappear into the forest, Finn relaxes a bit, but remains ever-vigilant in case they return.

So far, it’s only ravens that Finn herds, so I’ve opted to ignore the behavior. Finn is nearly 13; let him have his fun. Although I do remind him that the ravens surely know who he is and where he lives, so he’d better be careful. Conall seems bemused by it all, perhaps because – being so closely related to wolves – he understands the value of a good relationship with ravens.

dogs in yard, sunset
Conall watches Finn watching for ravens as the sun disappears below the horizon.

It truly was a beautiful sunset, made extra-orange by wildfire smoke in the air to the west.

orange sunset

24 thoughts on “Herding Ravens”

  1. There really are a half dozen ravens in residence at the Tower of London. They have a codependent relationship with the tourists. Must be starving now.

    Years ago down the Thames I came across a magpie at Greenwich. “Magpie!” I declared, what are you doing here? He did not answer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve read references to those ravens and how they may not be faring so well without the usual hordes of tourists this year. I should learn more.

      Next time you in London, talk to the ravens. They’re more likely to talk back.

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  2. Such gorgeous pictures! And I love ravens. We had one as a daily visitor here a few years ago, I named him Rodrick. Seeing him try to bathe in our bird bath was comical. He looked like a Pterodactyl!

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  3. good for Finn. Toby believes he can hunt down crows as we go for our twice daily walks. He makes a break for them and the crows laugh, wait till he gets a little close and fly just out of his reach.

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  4. My Finn must think everything is a raven because he barks at anything that he feels is invading his territory. Depending on where the RV is landed that can get somewhat tiresome. We’ve had a couple of rough days lately. It didn’t help that he and his brother Sawyer ran away while we let them swim in a Colorado river. The running away wasn’t all that bad because they always come back. However, this time they came back after rolling in bear scat!

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    1. Hoo boy, I can imagine the challenges of keeping the boys exercised, safely, as you move from place to place! Them “defending” each new territory must also be challenging; I know in my house, if one dog alerts the other is instantly there as backup! Good thing your two like water (and so are probably easy to bathe) if they’re going to roll in all the wonderful new scat they’ll now have access to on your travels πŸ™‚ Doggy cologne! And fodder for future blog posts!

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  5. Gorgeous images Rebecca. We don’t get ravens here and although Winston likes to chase the odd pigeon here and there, he’s learned that we don’t chase the crows in the park. I made friends with a pair through peanuts, and one of their babies has learned quickly that I often have treats in my pocket. Winston sometimes gives them a grumpy look but very rarely barks at them πŸ™‚

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    1. Oh, I love that you’ve made friends with a crow! And that Winston has the good sense to hold his complaints in check so that friendship can progress. Some day – a dream – I’d love to befriend one or more of the local ravens. I’ll keep peanuts in mind πŸ™‚

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