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I was driving on a rural road near Tucson the other day when I saw a Common Raven perched by the roadside. I slowed to get a look at it, fully expecting the bird to fly the instant I pulled parallel with it. Ravens usually have no interest in posing for photographers. Normally, one will take off the moment that a car slows in its presence.
But, this one stayed put and that surprised me. Was it injured or ill? I came to a stop and decided to photograph it. I poked my telephoto lens out of the passenger side window of my car and focused on the bird. I realized immediately that this was no sick bird, but a very young fledgling, perhaps only hours out of its nest, sitting alone and somewhat forlornly.
I began photographing it when I heard a loud scream. It was an adult raven, clearly enraged. I couldn’t see the bird through my car’s windows but the yelling was very loud and I realized that the bird was circling, just above my car. I took a few more photographs.
After a couple of seconds, the first raven was joined by a second bird. Now, both of them were circling my car and screaming at the top of their lungs. At this point, I decided that I needed to leave. Although I posed no threat to the youngster the adults thought otherwise, and they were furious at me. I drove away and to my amazement, the adult birds gave chase, following me for a good 1/2 mile and screaming with outrage the entire way.
Ravens are among the most intelligent life forms on our planet. Mated birds, like the pair that pursued me, are fiercely loyal to each other and to their offspring. I had the sense that one or both parents would have risked its life in order to protect that fledgling. In a situation like that hanging around to get just one more picture becomes a sort of cruelty. I’m glad that I left when I did.
Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 400DO+1.4X Extender, aperture priority setting, ISO 1000. The first image shot at f6.3 @ 1/800. The second shot at f6.3, @ 1/500.