Common Ravens — Intimate Portraits
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I stood on a hilltop one afternoon in Yellowstone, observing some Bison grazing in the valley below. Suddenly, a Common Raven flew up and landed on the edge of the hill, barely six feet from me. It watched me closely as if expecting something.
After a few moments it was joined by a second Raven. The two of them sat, side by side, their bodies touching, and both of them studied me.
I was delighted. Ravens are among my favorite subjects to photograph and I’d never had an opportunity to be so close to one of these magnificent birds, and in such excellent light. I sat down on the ground in order to get to eye level with these two and photographed them to my heart’s content. They didn’t fly: they sat there for a long time observing me as closely as I was observing them.
Ravens are among the most intelligent of all animals. Researchers have discovered that they are puzzle solvers par excellence. Unlike almost any other species Ravens are capable of inductive reasoning: that is to say, they can solve a problem by studying the situation without resorting to trial and error. By reputation they have extraordinary memories. They are capable of memorizing long strings of information, in some instances more quickly and accurately than humans can.
Couple that intellectual skill with amazing athletic abilities and you have a Raven. Ravens are among the strongest and swiftest fliers of all birds. They excel at aerial maneuvers and they can soar with the best of raptors.
These birds mate for life and pairs of Ravens become inseparable. Generally, when I see a Raven in the wild it will only be seconds before his or her mate shows up. Ravens are known for their playfulness. Adult ravens often engage in mock aerial dogfights just for the fun of it and they are merciless at teasing other species of animals. Woe unto a Red-tailed Hawk that blunders into a pair of Ravens!
So, what were these two doing? Why were they so obviously interested in me? Well, keep in mind that Yellowstone is visited each year by around a million tourists. Despite being warned not to, some small percentage of these tourists undoubtedly succumb to the temptation to toss snacks to the animals and birds. This pair of Ravens had me figured out as a possible mark and they were keeping close watch on me to see whether I’d throw them a tidbit. Given their intelligence I half expected them to hand me a bill for services when our photo session was over.
Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400 f4-5.6 ISII zoom lens+1.4x extender, aperture priority setting, ISO 250, f8 @ 1/800.