Common Raven Returns to Waterloo Region

The Common Raven Corvus corax is a splendid bird, glossy black, unless viewed up close, where its iridescence of purple, blue and green dazzles the eye. It is the largest of all the corvids with a heavy pick-axe bill. In flight it displays a wedge-shaped tail and wings featuring splayed-finger primaries . It is a master of soaring or strong, direct flight with powerful wing strokes when it has places to go. Sometimes, at moments of leisure, or simple whimsy, it will indulge in myriad flight antics, rolling and tumbling with abandon, often turning on its back. A loud, resonant croak announces its presence to all and sundry. Its mastery of the air is clear to those who care to watch, but suddenly it is gone leaving those who saw it wishing to learn more of its secrets.

It was revered by our First Nations people, especially those tribes of the west coast, where its presence is celebrated in various totemic fashions.  Its wisdom and ingenuity were legendary among tribes such as the Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian.

Ravens at one time occupied all of Canada but by the time Percy Taverner wrote Birds of Eastern Canada in 1919 it was already restricted to the remote and unsettled regions of Canada’s north, having been the victim of human persecution and slaughter on a grand scale. Its call no longer echoed through the skies along the Grand River, its wily ways were but a distant memory to aboriginal and white settler alike.

Fortunately our attitudes to wildlife have undergone radical changes in recent years and we have come to appreciate nature in all its forms, no longer to be simply viewed from a narrow anthropogenic perspective of self-interest and outright prejudice. The Common Raven has begun to reclaim its ancestral homeland in the green and pleasant valleys of south-central Ontario.

For the second consecutive year a pair has raised young on Schummer Line near Linwood, their presence now a cause of rejoicing for the farmer on whose silo they have constructed their nest. In times past he might have taken his rifle to them, now he welcomes their presence and basks in the pleasure of their company. Indeed, they have become celebrities, surpassing his own eminence in a long life upon the land.

common ravens
Near the hamlet of Glen Allen in Wellington County another pair has raised young, much to the delight of those among us who know of their presence. Photo by D. Gascoigne

Imagine my pleasure last Thursday morning while doing my regular monitoring of The Hogsback, when a pair of ravens  flew above my head, both carrying sticks, a sure indication that a pair bond has been formed and that nest construction is underway.  How great will our elation be if later in the year we witness a family at rare.

If left alone there is little doubt that this magnificent bird will reestablish itself in all its ancient haunts to the delight of ornithologists, birders, nature lovers and the public at large. Long may it rule the skies!

By: David M. Gascoigne

David Gascoigne is a part of rare’s volunteer bird monitoring team. He documents his own adventures on his blog

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