I’ve had several encounters with my favorite flying dinosaurs recently. Common ravens (Corvus corax) are found in the far northern latitudes around the globe. At first glance, you might think you’re looking at a crow. Up close, their 4-5 ft wingspan in flight and heavy-set waddle on the ground are unmistakeable.
Ravens and humans are no strangers. We’ve mingled throughout history, and they know a thing or two about using us to find a meal. This has never been more apparent to me than in the campgrounds and along the trails of Yosemite Valley. The ravens there are fat and glossy, and they don’t bother to fly away when people walk within 5 feet of them.
The relationship isn’t all give and no take, though. Humans have used ravens to make meaning of the world for centuries, at least. Raven appears in oral traditions of North America as a trickster, or a creator, or as the spirits of the departed. In Norse mythology, Odin sends two ravens, Thought and Memory, over the world each morning to gather information for him.
Animal behavior studies are finding that the Corvid family (ravens, crows, jays, magpies, and jackdaws) is a highly intelligent group. They excel at problem solving and social learning.
The only things common about this raven are its connections to people and its name.