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Wed, Feb. 26

Birding: Rowdy roosting ravens raise a ruckus

Our home sits on a short cul-de-sac just off of Rosser Street. We have a very large ponderosa pine tree in our yard, which is quite unusual, as there are very few ponderosas in our neighborhood.

We moved to this home in 2005, and each year we have had a family of ravens use the same nest in the ponderosa to rear their young. It is remarkable to witness the rapid development of baby ravens. For the first few weeks after hatching, I don’t hear a lot of activity in the nest, but I know they have hatched based on the comings and goings of the parents.

Then, gradually, as the babies get bigger, I start hearing the sound of the babies begging for food as the parents arrive at the nest. As the babies continue to grow and mature, the volume level in the nest increases.

Eventually, as the babies get larger, they start to branch out (bad pun!) Leaving the safety and security of the nest, they began exploring what it is like to move from branch to branch in the tree.

After several days of hanging out in the branches, they finally decide to fly. This year, I witnessed something that was most unusual — a group of three adults. I suspect two of them were the parents and, perhaps, an adult from a brood from the same set of parents in years past.

These three ravens put on a flight display, as if to teach or coax the juveniles to leave the safety of the tree and try flying. As the three adults were flying up and down the length of the cul-de-sac, they vocalized almost continuously, calling to the three juveniles to come and join them.

Eventually, the three juveniles started taking short flights — mostly from the tree to the rooftops of neighboring homes and back again. They seem to prefer the highest point such as a chimney or stove pipe or the ridgeline of the home.

Their brief forays to houses and back to the tree continued probably for a full week before they started taking longer flights away from the tree. It has now gotten to the point, in just a few short weeks, that the babies are gone for a good part of the day.

However, each evening they return to the tree where the nest is, and spend the night perched on a branch. The adults also return each evening and spend the night in the tree as well.

Unfortunately these birds do not need a wake-up call. In fact, no one in our neighborhood needs a wake-up call, as the ravens are the first to start vocalizing each morning, usually when it is still dark. We like to sleep with our doors and windows open to enjoy the fresh air, and it is hard to sleep in with the ravens around!

In our yard, we have a small recirculating pond with a waterfall, and the baby ravens absolutely love it! They treat the water feature as if it were their very own personal water park. Ravens are notorious for placing disgusting things in birdbaths to soak up water before consuming it. Earlier this week when I was on my roof cleaning out the gutters, I found a six-inch rib bone on the top of the roof! I am sure one of the ravens dined there and forgot to clear their place.

I am sure everyone in the neighborhood is looking forward to a little peace and quiet, but I don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon.

Until next week, Happy Birding!

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with three locations in northern Arizona – Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at eric@jaysbirdbarn.com.

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