Word of the day – Hemerophile

Part 6 of the Spooky black birds of SoHo series, for my #AnimalMOOC Field Notes.

I learnt the word “hemerophile” from this other entertaining #AnimalMOOC corvids blog today.

Animals that are hemerophiles benefit from living within the cultural landscapes that humans have created.  Ravens certainly fall into this category.  Whether it’s raiding our fruit trees, eating our unwatched sandwiches, or cleaning up after our BBQ’s, they are more than happy to take advantage of humanity’s generosity when it comes to incidental food provision.  Today’s raven falls squarely within the hemerophile definition, cleaning up something slightly gorier than your average sandwich.

Yesterday morning in SoHo, it was proper wet.  After a misty start to the morning, the rain began in earnest, slamming down on the deck, grass and trees in a way which made me rather reticent to leave the house to hunt ravens.  Luckily, this time I didn’t have to.

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During a brief, sunny period, an adult raven alighted on the grass at the end of my driveway (conveniently visible from my bedroom), and appeared to start tearing a piece of local marsupial to bits.  I snatched my binoculars, and propped up on the window sill to watch it.

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At first, I thought the raven had acquired the leg of some kind of marsupial, probably a pademelon by the size of it, which it had firmly pinned under its foot.  There are a lot of pademelons around here, and unfortunately, they are often victims of late night drivers.

Most of the fur seemed to still be intact, but the bird was busily removing it, and stripping bits of flesh and sinew from underneath.  I took some crappy photos with my phone, and then did what I assume the professionals do – sent someone else out with a real camera to take some better pics.  The photos below are courtesy of my partner (who informs me that he was using an inappropriate lens for the job).

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Closer inspection revealed that it was not actually roadkill that the raven was eating, but the body of the very large rat my partner had caught in our backyard trap, and then thrown into the bush.  Happily for the raven, it had found the body of the rodent duck food thief, and was making a rather gory meal of it.

 


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Unfortunately, the raven was not pleased with my partner’s paparazzo efforts, and after only a moment or two, picked up its dead rodent and flew away.  Not before we got a few, slightly-better-than-average photos of it though!

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Baby ravens – despite our best hopes, not actually very cute at all…

Part 5 of the Spooky black birds of SoHo series, for my #AnimalMOOC Field Notes.

Today, a friend of mine sent me a link to a picture of a baby “raven”.  Although adorable, a raven it is not.

Adorable, but not a raven baby.

Adorable, but not a raven baby.

I knew this only because I’d seen this picture before, on this great corvid blog, which showed a couple of pictures of juvenile birds that are commonly mis-ID’d as baby ravens or crows.

From this blog, I learnt a key difference between baby corvids, and babies of the cute, fluffy variety for which they’d been mistaken.  The latter, cute fluffies are precocial baby birds – that is, they are born with feathers, able to walk about with their eyes open almost immediately, and able to find their own food – baby chickens and ducks fall into this category.

Baby ravens, on the other hand, are altricial, and are charmingly described by the Corvid Blog as “naked little jelly-bean monsters”.  They are born with their eyes closed, rely on their parents to feed them for up to a year, and when they finally leave  the nest, are as big or sometimes larger than the parents that reared them.  And they’re really not that traditionally aesthetically pleasing.

So the next time you see a cute little fluffy black bird all perky, bright-eyed and alert, know that while adorable it may be, a corvid it is not.