Birding on Bloedel: Common Ravens often heard near reserve

“A Year of Birding in Bloedel” is a column that runs every Friday in the  Bainbridge Islander. The project is planned to continue in 52 parts through 2014  to help readers find and identify birds in the island’s garden sanctuary.   Beginning with this entry on the bald eagle, each column will also be published  here on the Bainbridge Conversation blog each Friday. 

The author, Ted Anderson, is a retired professor of biology, having taught  at McKendree University (Ill.) for 32 years and for the University of Michigan’s  summer biological station for 20 years, where he frequently taught the biology  of birds.

Anderson is also the author of “Biology of the Ubiquitous House Sparrow,  from Genes to Populations” (2006), and “The Life of David Lack, Father of  Evolutionary Ecology” (2013). Ted and his wife Carol have been  members of Bloedel Reserve for 7 years. They live in Kingston. 

Contributed photo The Common Raven weighs nearly three times as much as its close relative, the Northwestern Crow.
Contributed photo
The Common Raven weighs nearly three times as much as its close relative, the Northwestern Crow.

The Common Raven is the largest passerine bird, the order that includes all of the songbirds. In bird parlance the use of the term “Common” in the name usually refers to the fact that the species is found in both the New World and the Old World, a fact that is true for the Common Raven.

The Common Raven is a denizen of mature forests and tundra, and has a broad North American distribution that includes much of Canada, Alaska and the western states. It is a year-round resident throughout its range.

The raven is the subject of numerous legends and beliefs in the cultures of many Eurasian and North American peoples. In Greek mythology, the raven is associated with the god Apollo and with prophesy, no doubt due to the widespread appreciation of the raven’s intelligence.

In many cultures the raven is associated with death, a belief reflected in Poe’s “quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.’” Closer to home, the native peoples of the coastal Pacific Northwest have a rich tradition of raven mythology.

Raven is often considered the creator of the world, but is also identified as the “trickster,” a role played by the coyote in the native cultures of the Southwest (reflected in “Wily Coyote” of cartoon fame). The Quileute of the Olympic Peninsula have a traditional story, “Raven and Eagle,” in which Eagle turns the tables on the trickster, deceiving him with tragic consequences.

Although the Common Raven weighs nearly three times as much as its close relative, the Northwestern Crow, it is most easily distinguished from the latter by its vocalizations. The raven sounds like a hoarse crow. I have most frequently heard ravens calling in the vicinity of the entrance to Bloedel.

Last week, my wife and I observed a Common Raven soaring and calling over the large meadow south of the Gatehouse. Ravens, which are primarily scavengers, often soar in search of food, while crows, as we all know, fly “as the crow flies.”

Birding, Uncategorized

About Ethan Fowler

Ethan Fowler has more than 20 years of journalism experience with 19 years of daily and weekly newspaper experience covering news, features and sports, as well as being an editor for 14 of those years. He has won several writing awards over the years in Washington state, Virginia, Texas and Georgia, including award-winning investigative journalism. Fowler was paid by the Review & Herald Publishing Association in 2009 to co-author a book, "Brushed Back: The Story of Trevor Bullock," with his wife. The book details the real life of a top minor league pitcher in the Philadelphia Phillies organization and his Christian faith. "Brushed Back" has sold more than 2,000 copies since its release.