RAVEN MANIAC
Feeding ravens is a confusing joy. I have read a book that purports to explain everything about raven
psychology and believed it. However, now that I am in the business, I doubt his answers. I find raven thinking
very confusing.


Yes, I had fed ravens winter before this last, but not for long. This winter was a hard one with lots of
snow. and by December there wasn't much food around. Not that this deterred the ravens. They were as large
and noisy as ever. Several years ago I had a letter from a friend in Israel who said desert ravens are small and
quiet. Not the ravens of Alaska. A large variety of calls, which I honestly do not understand. Perhaps later.
Although they're very hard to count as they keep flying and walking around, I believe about twenty
show up for food. Great fun to watch them squabble. One will snatch at the wing feathers of another when
irked, making noise all the time. Others will grab a beak full, then fly to the top of the fence to swallow. Often,
reason unknown, two or three will fly the six feet down to the end of the drive and then walk back. Or a cluster
will fly away. Do they return? Impossible to tell. I wish I could wrap colored yarn around a leg. When the food
is gone, which takes no more than five minutes when the crowd is out, they all fly away.


After a while, a routine develops. Around 9:00 a.m. I come out with leftover food or stale crackers or
whatever, and distribute it on my driveway, just beyond the gate of the low wooden fence that surrounds my
small house and yard. At first I put the food in a plastic dish, which a raven would carry down the drive when
the food ran low. Then the dishes were gone. I spotted one on the roof of the house across the street and later
another one on the roof of its garage. Then they disappeared; one or two showed up in the large vacant lot on
the steep slope just down from my house.
Finally, I quit providing dishes. My daughter had suggested I was strewing garbage around the
neighborhood, although the ravens ate the food. It was the plastic dishes that marred the place. Noticing the
food got picked out of the snow, I stopped the dishes. That seems to work nicely, especially now that the snow is
gone and the grass is coming up.


Two ravens, one on the fence above the 10-foot high retaining wall that keeps the street from falling onto
my driveway and house, and the other perched on my fence rail adjacent to the gate or sitting on the roof just
above the front door, greet me most mornings. I mentioned this to a couple who assured me ravens do
recognize individual humans. I doubted this, but my son the naturalist said that was true. Researchers at a
university found the ravens were following them around the campus.


This was proven true this past winter when my daughter & son-in-law asked me to meet them at the foot
of the stairs by the house I use when my street is too icy. About twenty minutes after the morning feed, I started
down the stairs, bordered on one side by the vacant lot and on the other by my fence. Four ravens instantly
appeared, making loud noises. One landed on the stair rail about six inches from my gloved hand. I had some
tiny dog food pellets in my pocket, so placed four on the railing. He promptly hopped over and picked them up
while the other three looked on. They proceeded to accompany me down the stairs.


Fun as this is, I have stopped feeding ravens. First, spring is here and food is available. Next, and most
importantly, the radio has announced the bears are out. My other daughter has reported seeing overturned
trash cans, a sure sign. While I enjoy ravens by my house, I do not want bears. Last summer was enough.
So I picked April 14 as the last day for the feast. It was a generous feed, and then I began walking to the grocery,
about a quarter-mile away. As I walked down my hill, several ravens were calling from the trees and a light pole
or two. Feeling a bit guilty, I placed some dog food pellets on the flat rail of a fence bordering the vacant lot.
Here came a raven and snatched up the food. I repeated this several times; the short flat wall in front of the
governor's house, a concrete low wall just beyond that, and again on a fence along the bottom of the hill down
from the governor's house. Now there were four ravens watching and waiting and snatching. As I walked along
the narrow street towards the grocery, the walls were gone. The trees were gone as well. However, I placed five
pellets on a clean stretch of sidewalk and two ravens promptly appeared.


Now I was close to the busy street just before the grocery, so decided that was enough. I don't think I
mentioned that I make cawing and clonking noises when I feed the birds. I don't do raven calls very well, and
prefer not to do them at all when other people are around. I hadn't seen another person the whole way from
my house, but that now changed.


I walked across the paved parking lot to the grocery store. No noises. I did buy some more dog pellets at
the store, telling myself I give them to passing dogs, which I do.


Sunday I was sitting out on the deck by the house, reading. A raven landed on the railing about two feet
from me, glossy in the sun; feathers, legs, talons, eyes, all shining. I couldn't resist placing some pellets on the rail
about six inches from him. He looked at me for a few seconds, then hopped forward and ate the pellets.
I remembered when I was adopted by our local Indians long ago and told I was of the Raven moiety.
Have always been flattered; now I am extremely proud of that.
D. L.

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