Draper Museum Raptor Experience
Becky: Common Raven
About the Bird:
Becky is a female Common Raven, who, as an immature bird, was taken illegally to be someone’s pet. As a consequence of living with people instead of ravens as a baby, she became imprinted on humans and does not know how to survive as a raven. Without the necessary skills of being a raven, she can not survive in the wild and will live in human care the rest of her life. Though not a raptor, Becky joined our flock of birds in the Fall of 2023.
General Species Info:
Common ravens belong to the largest order of birds in the world, the Passeriformes, commonly known as perching birds. Ravens have a wide distribution throughout the Northern Hemisphere, and can thrive in many habitats from tundra to desert. They are found in North America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa. The global population of common ravens is estimated to be about 16 million.
Ravens are very intelligent and can solve problems, recognize different individuals (including humans), and learn new behaviors by observing others. They are playful and have been seen in flight carrying objects such as sticks which they may trade back and forth with others. In addition, they play their own games by dropping and retrieving objects while in flight. They even appear to interact with other animals, including wolves, in a playful way.
Though not technically songbirds, ravens have a wide repertoire of sounds and calls, the most common of which is a croak that may rise in pitch. Other sounds include whistles, mews, shrill high-pitched alarm cries, and knocking sounds. Ravens can also imitate sounds such as dripping water, mimic other birds, and even learn to speak words in human languages.
Outstanding flyers, ravens are acrobatic and often move quickly and dive repeatedly, and are sometimes seen doing rolls and somersaults.
Ravens are excellent scavengers that will feed on almost anything including plants and animals, carcasses, and garbage. As predators, ravens will kill and eat small animals such as rodents, frogs, lizards, fish, scorpions, and insects. They will also raid bird nests, eating the eggs as well as the chicks. While their food habits can annoy or upset some people, their scavenging helps keep the environment cleaner.
Ravens will often hide (cache) food for later meals. They may even watch other ravens hide food, then raid that cache when the other bird is absent.
Brandon Lewis, the Raptor Experience’s Live Raptor Husbandry and Training Specialist, has been working with Becky and shares these insights into her training:
“Becky is full of energy, very enthusiastic, and eager to learn during training sessions. Every day is full of lessons and experiences that add up. One day, Becky will be a very flamboyant ambassador for her species and the Raptor Experience!
“Training with Becky the raven has been a most enlightening experience. Imagine, if you will, trying to train Robin Williams in bird form after he chugged six energy drinks. Now imagine that you do not share the same verbal or body language, and the bird in question has no previous life skills or really knows how to connect a series of experiences into an established behavior—yet. Every moment is a learning experience.”
Enrichment materials for Becky include legos and stack rings. When asked if the raven plays with them, Brandon says, “Oh, yes! She disassembles them and moves them around. Sometimes I hide food in things I create with them, sometimes not. She always takes them apart… She can pick everything up with her beak. One goal I have is to train her to help me pick up her mess. Eventually, maybe she will clean her own room!
“This is where we are with Becky. The behaviors that we are establishing will prepare her and our staff for success during veterinary examinations, public programs, and daily care.”