The boreal forest is home to so many interesting birds but perhaps the most intelligent is the raven. You may have noticed from our daily data that see ravens often in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Ravens are the largest of all the songbirds. They are 2 feet long and have a 4 foot wingspan. They are jet black and have shaggy feathers around their neck. Ravens have a distinct bill with a curve on the upper part. Their tails are wedge-shaped and long. Ravens make a very loud, sharp, “krak” sound. They also make a sound like a low throaty rattle.
Ravens don’t seem to be afraid of the sled dogs.
Are there ravens near where you live?
At one time, raven populations in the eastern U.S. decreased because of the logging of old growth forests. Today they are making a comeback and are found in a variety of different habitats such as deserts, mountains, boreal forests and along coastal cliffs. Boreal forests are coniferous forests that are known for their long winters, short summers, and evergreen trees. Common ravens are found throughout Alaska, the western US, the Great Lakes area, the Northeast, and the Appalachian mountains.
Ravens are extremely intelligent. They have been known to find sick or dying animals. Then they squawk to alert predators of their find. Signaling to the predators is good for both the ravens as well as the predators. The squawking strikes the predators’ curiosity and they will often wander over and find the victim. Since the ravens are not able to kill large animals they rely on wolves, foxes, or eagles to do the job. Once the predator has made the kill, the ravens move in to take their share of the meat. Wolves have learned to fill up with all the food they can because the ravens will eat the leftovers. Ravens are even known to signal to people about a sick or injured animal.
Ravens make all sorts of sounds. Image source: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Corvus_corax_in_Akureyri_4.jpeg#mw-jump-to-license
Can you think of any other animals that interact like the ravens and wolves?
Ravens sometimes “pick on” submissive wolves but they don’t pick on high ranking wolves. It appears that ravens can distinguish dominant wolves from submissive wolves. They seem to stay away from dominant wolves when they are feeding because they realize they are more likely to fight back. The ravens tend to swoop down and peck at submissive wolves when they are feeding to try and make them leave the kill. The next time you are in the woods, listen for the loud squawks of ravens and maybe you can even follow one to see what the ravens have discovered!
More Information About Ravens
Student Response Worksheet