Full Screen Image – Northern Raven Nest, Crask of Aigas, Highland Scotland ©Nick Sidle
Ravens stand out in many ways. They are the world’s largest perching bird, they are known for their intelligence and, it is said, if they leave the Tower of London the kingdom will fall, a belief which appears to date from the reign of Charles II, who would of course have a personal interest in the security of the throne and a rather heightened concern for how things could work out given what happened to his father. Presumably this only applies if they all leave at once, since various members of the Raven contingent have absented themselves, including the case of the rather appropriately named Raven Grog who was last seen outside a London East End pub, or have even been asked to leave like Raven George was dismissed for eating television aerials.
This might of course be a rather strange dietary preference, a strong commentary on the artistic quality of modern television or could it even have been an attempt to gain power and influence in society by controlling the media, something which every aspiring totalitarian ruler dreams of? Unlikely of course, there is no evidence that Ravens have the slightest interest in influencing human affairs of state, apart from anything else it now seems they are quite busy enough making power plays in their own political world. A study at the University of Vienna has shown that Raven society is strongly founded on making alliances and bonds between individuals and that the most effective social climbers in that world not only put a lot of effort into forming new positive relationships for themselves, but they also work quite hard to undermine, damage or prevent the formation of the partnerships of their rivals and work hardest to do this the more successful and powerful a potential rival becomes.
The team in Vienna speculate that having definitely shown this behaviour in Ravens, it should also be considered as linked to observed or possible similar strategies in other highly social species including other corvids, dolphins, hyaenas and primates. Primates? That is worrying, if true it might even mean people do it as well……
Northern Raven – Corvus corax