Raven Show Offs


Flying and Soaring Contest?
by Sally Blanchard

- I remember reading an old bird book years ago that basically stated that the purpose of bird flight was simply to get from one place to another. Times have certainly changed as far as our concepts of animal behavior are concerned. Studies have been done by ornithologists that now discuss that many birds fly just for the thrill of it ... because it is joyful play. Several years ago I was lucky enough to watch California Condors ride the thermals in the mountains of Los Padres National Forest in California. Were they simply searching for carrion far below or were they just soaring for the fun of it? I don’t believe it is the least bit anthropomorphic to say that soaring the thermals was a joyous experience for the giant birds.

- I love to watch Ravens on a windy day. One day I saw a small group of Ravens sitting on the top of a large tree near where I live. It was a very windy day. One took off and flew in the wind while the others noisily watched. The bird did very little wing-flapping; with his wings spread, he seemed to just let the wind take him wherever it did. After a few minutes, he flew to the tree again. After some raucous conversation, another Raven took off and with his wings spread out; he let the wind guide him. He soared high and then flapped awhile and then tucked his wings and flew with the wind like a bullet. He let the wind take him high again and then repeated the wing tuck so that the wind could not control him so much. He returned to the branch and two Ravens took off. The whole group called loudly and one of the birds quickly returned to the treetops while the other one let the wind take him higher. One of those birds had to wait his turn to show off.

- Corvid family birds such as Crows and Ravens have a reputation for high intelligence. There was little doubt in my mind that this Raven family group was showing off for each other one at a time. They were using the wind as their own amusement park. There seemed to be no purpose for the individual flight efforts. The birds all returned to the same tree top after their wind-driven flights so they weren’t flying to get some place. They were obviously flying in the wind simply for the fun of it.




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