Learning to Speak Raven

How I’d love to stumble across and old English/Raven dictionary in a thrift shop.

Or be able to take a Conversational Raven online course.

My husband is currently refreshing his Spanish skills using such an app. I can imagine him repeating Spanish phrases in one corner of the house, and me practicing my “knocking call” in another …

As it is, I have just been piecing things together from books and blogs, and from my own limited observations over the years. Lately there have been a group of ravens in our very own neighbourhood, so it’s a thrill to see and hear them on the daily walks with the dog.

Here are a few bits and pieces of video and photography to share with you some of the interesting things I’ve noticed. I’m not, of course, a scientist — so I’m mostly casting about in the dark about the significance of what I see. I’m always thrilled to hear from people who properly study these matters who can fill in the many blanks.

Before we go any further, there are a lot of videos in this post. As they won’t show up in an email, make sure to click on the BLOG POST itself to be able to see them OK.

This is the most common call that I hear ravens make.

It almost seems like an “I’m here. Where are you?” sort of call. The raven in the video above was filmed only a few metres from our house in the tall trees around one of the local schools. The raven seemed to make that call,  listen for a distant answering call, and then call again.

Of course, the local crows are not pleased about the newcomers to the ‘hood and spend a lot of time and energy mobbing their larger corvid cousins, trying to get them to “move on.”

That raven call has amazing carrying power. I can hear it from what seems like miles away — over the city noises of traffic, construction, conversation and angry crows. I’m not sure if it’s just because I’m always listening for it, or because it’s at just the right frequency to cut through.

Of course, in the quiet of the mountains it’s easier to hear more subtle raven calls. My favourite one is a kind of “knocking” call that sounds like water dripping into a still pool.  Recently I was lucky enough to be out snowshoeing on Mount Seymour and witness the call being made at close quarters.

This raven hung around for a while, making this fabulous sound. Long enough for me to notice that when he or she made it, all of those magnificent throat feathers stick out like an Elizabethan ruff.

It made me wonder … do ravens have that fabulous feather cravat  just to add visual splendour to that particular call … or do they make that sound just as an excuse to show off their feathery abundance?  Always more questions than answers …

Ruff flaunting raven in mid “knocking” call.

More wondering. Do their feathers stick out like that because they have to somehow puff out their throat and make it taut to create such a hollow, musical sound? It does sound like some sort of percussion instrument.

The raven below, spotted on Mount Washington, is making a slightly different call, more of a hollow wooden sound. You may have to turn the sound up, as s/he was quite far away.

Feather preening, in between performances.

The raven in the next video is making yet another call. I call it the “wow” sound.

My raven vocalist friend.

In the Raven's Eye

Me, reflected in the raven’s eye. I love this image because I spend so much time watching, and thinking about, crows and ravens that it seems appropriate for me to be “caught” there.

Some playful muttering and off-camera raven commentary in this video.

Finally our raven pals got tired of being our house band and took off for other adventures.

This last video is a couple of years old, taken near the ski hill parking lot at Cypress Mountain.

This is one of my favourite snippets of raven film. It’s not very good, technically. I took it from a distance with a lot of car park noise in the background and, as usual, no tripod. But I watch it quite often and it always makes me smile. It reminds me of a scene from a Jane Austen novel. The raven couples are doing the rounds at the ball. Social rituals are observed, silent judgements are made, gossip and meaningful looks are exchanged. Meanwhile, at the top of the frame, one young single raven, oblivious to the formalities, plays in the snow.

As you see, I’m still a million miles away from that Raven to English translation program, but it’s a lot of fun to work towards it.

Other posts on raven sounds:





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29 thoughts on “Learning to Speak Raven

  1. It finally worked! Thank you for the wonderful pictures of those amazing birds. I absolutely love them!

  2. I absolutely loved your Blog this week! My favourite was the video of the group of ravens that made you think of “…a Jane Austen novel. The raven couples are doing the rounds at the ball. Social rituals are observed, silent judgements are made, gossip and meaningful looks are exchanged.”

    Wishing you and your family a great Easter Weekend!
    Corinne ~ The Painting Crow

  3. I have loved the magnificent Raven’s repertoire of calls for years – thank you for elucidating them June! Sometimes their regular call get a bit of shrill emphasis which I think sounds like a middle aged matron getting goosed! 😉

  4. I could watch these all day June, thank you! We have crows but no ravens around here so it is a real treat to see these videos. I would love one of those dictionaries too! I remember when I was about 12 years old drawing pictures of crows and documenting the position of their head and body as they made each different sound. That was about 45 years ago, I wish I still had those pictures!

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  7. I absolutely enjoy your posts and want to thank you! What truly amazing creatures! I am just fascinated with all corvids! I have befriended many feather friends in my suburban North Eastern backyard. Fish and or American Crows will visit every morning for “breakfast”. I also have my regualr smart and feisty Blue Jays who visit me throughout the day… I was recently amazed to see a solo Raven trying to get close to the goodies one morning, but was chased off by the crows. The wing span is astounding and it’s amazing gliding on the updrafts was so graceful. I have not heard any vocalizations from this solo raven other than a single croak of warning to a crow that came too close. I wonder why I only see one raven? Maybe it’s young and has not paired with a mate, yet… You are so fortunate to be able to see and hear them so intimately! Thanks for the stunning photographs and the great video clips! It’s so fun to be able to view other corvid lovers experiences and share!

  8. Fascinating. Informative. Witty. Satisfying. Overall, you’ve done excellent work with this. I also like how the videos are placed on the same page. Don’t have to keep going to YouTube to watch a 10 second video. I can nearly feel your passion for birds physically, and you’ve done well with it. Be proud!

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  10. Hi, that’s a great insight into the sounds of ravens…. Im currently sitting in the churchyard in Ambleside and the noise is an absolute cacophony from 40-50 birds… What a conversation they are having… I can’t tell if its ravens, crows or rooks though. I’d love to know what the big debate is about!!

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  12. We heard a raven doing the ‘knocking’ sound for the first time today! We were out walking and I was able to tell my husband what it was – we stood still and listened/watched until we saw the raven fly to another tree where it shouted a little then knocked again. I’m beyond thrilled and wouldn’t have known about this if it wasn’t for your wonderful posts. Thank you June 🙏🏼 xx

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  14. Delightful as always! Let me know when that dictionary comes out! Thanks June for bringing a smile and a chuckle to my day! I agree; the photo that captures you in the raven’s eye is fabulous! It’s worth framing.

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