Raven Anecdote

Earlier this week I wrote about a new study into the impressive range of raven intelligence. Lots of people wrote to me or commented on Raven Reasoning with their own first hand stories of raven cleverness.

So now I’m inspired to tell my favourite raven story …

The ravens of Mount Seymour are well known for their lunch and snack stealing prowess. On almost every hiking or snowshoeing trip there we’ve witnessed a skilful heist of one sort or another, with prizes ranging from sandwiches to chocolate bars to full party-sized bags of chips.

But this one incident stands out.

It was winter and we’d snowshoed to a poplar destination where people always rest to take in the view out over Vancouver and eat their lunch.

We’d eaten ours and were about to head back down, but we stopped to talk to a group of six people who were still eating. A pair of ravens were nonchalantly strolling about nearby.

One of the men in the group fixed the ravens with a stern gaze and recounted how they’d stolen his sandwich on the last trip. “Never again,” he asserted. With a flourish, he took the remaining half of his sandwich and pushed it well into the depths of the backpack lying close beside him.

As we were chatting I had one eye on a raven (as I always do) and was just halfway through uttering the phrase, “I think this raven is casing the joint,” when …

In a move too quick for human eye to follow, the raven darted right through the middle of this large group of raven-suspicious humans, unhesitatingly plunged his head far into the man’s backpack, and flew off with his prize. There may have been a raven cackle as he disappeared into the distance.

The skill and daring took our collective breath away. Once we recovered the power of speech, most of us (excluding the theft victim) declared it pretty hilarious. And definitely very impressive.

The reason I’d been about to say my bit about “casing the joint” was I’d noticed his raven eyes darting back and forth, measuring the distance between the people, gauging how distracted we were by the conversation and the view and, all the time, remembering exactly which compartment of the backpack contained the sandwich.

We really didn’t stand a chance.

I can’t count the times I’ve been impressed by raven shrewdness, but that was one of the funniest.

Another incident: raven solves a banana problem, see following photos.

This is going to be delicious, but it’s hard to carry like this …

The theme tune of a banana company’s ad campaign from my childhood comes to mind, “Un-zip a banana!”

That’s better!

Play is a well known indicator of intelligence and social sophistication in a species so, for further proof that ravens are geniuses …

I’ve posted these ravens playing snowball videos before but I didn’t think you’d mind seeing them again. I could watch them over and over, particularly if I need cheering up!

Lastly, a rousing rendition of Joy to the World, raven style …




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6 thoughts on “Raven Anecdote

  1. I did really enjoy this and watched the Ravens from I think is the spot were you were at The Ravens would come in side ways to get a treat Sid3 ways so they co7ld have a easy get a way. Take Care

  2. I very much enjoy your posts. We have a raven pair who raise their young every in the forest around our home on Paint Lake near Dorset Ontario. We have a small Westie-Poodle cross who loves to chase the Ravens when they are flying by and I am sure they tease her. They call to her and circle an watch her run. I have just take up drawing in ink and this is my raven.

    Sent from my iPad


  3. Great story, June! I love it. The brilliance, the brilliance. Can’t believe the Grinch in that group though who would begrudge his leftover sandwich to a raven in the middle of winter. (major eye rolling) Just a reminder to others – chocolate is hugely toxic to birds, so that would be one ‘treat’ I would definitely not want them to see them steal.

    Hope you and your household have a great Christmas! Missed your studio sales very much this year. Hoping you can have one again in May! Fingers crossed. Look forward to seeing you and Geordie again in 2021.

    Take good care,


  4. Hello June,

    Recently, a friend linked me to your blog. It is so inspiring. For many years, I have loved watching the crows and ravens who live near our cottage in the Muskoka area north of Toronto.

    In 2014, completely burned out from my work in Education and Medicine, I spent the first summer of my retirement sitting on the porch at our cottage meditating on the beauty of our lake and the surrounding forest. My wife hadn’t yet retired so I was alone at the cottage. Attempting to connect with the local flora and fauna, I put out peanuts for the chipmunks and red squirrels who quickly became tame enough to eat from my hand.

    One crow kept circling by my chair on the porch, alighting in progressively closer branches but always waiting until I left our porch before landing and taking the peanuts. We established a pattern. He would circle by the porch, announcing his presence from a nearby tree, then wait for me to leave some peanuts out on the porch. I’d wait inside the cottage a little back from the window and watch him. He wouldn’t take any peanuts if I was outside or if I was too close to the window.

    I named ‘him’ Pete. After a week, Pete brought along his mate, Repeat. (I wasn’t too inventive with names, I’m afraid.). Pete and Repeat became regular visitors. I began leaving peanuts on a chair by our boat dock so that the crows could access them when I was sitting on the porch feeding the chipmunks (Short Tail, Long Tail, Bent Tail, and Long Tail 2).

    By now I was taking books out of the local library to read about Corvids. I was fascinated by them. I longed to be able to communicate with them somehow, to connect with these intelligent birds. I even thought that I was beginning to appreciate subtleties in their calls to each other – differing frequencies and modulations indicating a ‘language’ all their own.

    One day, Pete and Repeat arrived on the porch with two juveniles (Threepeat and Fourpeat – I mentioned my lack of creativity with names!) to whom they fed the peanuts although the young crows were almost as large as their parents. I was thrilled to see their comfort in bringing their family to my porch.

    This all came to a crashing halt shortly after this. Early one morning, as the sun was rising, there arose a cacophony of sound as a whole murder of crows circled our cottage. Landing in the trees overhead they began to persistently holler until I got up, collected a couple of handfuls of peanuts, went down to the dock, and placed them on a chair. The peanuts disappeared in record time.

    The same thing happened the next morning, the murder having grown half again in size. Aunts, uncles, cousins – the whole tribe was there. With some sorrow, I realized that my attempts to quietly connect with one crow had become a new nuisance to neighbours and an unnatural phenomenon that I felt guilty about perpetuating. Sadly, I stopped putting out peanuts for all my friends at that point. Pete and Repeat came by a few more times but didn’t stay long that summer.

    The next year, I arrived to open up the cottage. A crow flew down almost as soon as I arrived and landed close by in a tree beside the porch. ‘He’ looked at me, waiting as I went into the cottage, but I couldn’t bring myself to start the whole process all over again.

    It was so fun to see your blog post about the Walkers. If I’m correct, you placed a few peanuts for the crow by a tree, and his/her reward for walking with you was to sample these treats. I was so happy for you and the crow. I don’t know how often this happens for you, but any chance to share close proximity with these beautiful creatures is a joy in and of itself. I am happy for you.

    The pictures in your blog post are magnificent. It brings me such a deep pleasure to see them. Thank you.

    Ted Ashbury

    On Fri, Dec 18, 2020 at 5:30 PM The Urban Nature Enthusiast wrote:

    > The Urban Nature Enthusiast posted: ” Earlier this week I wrote about a > new study into the impressive range of raven intelligence. Lots of people > wrote to me or commented on Raven Reasoning with their own first hand > stories of raven cleverness. So now I’m inspired to tell my favour” >

  5. Love any info on crows or ravens. Thx for happy new year. COVID put a damper on everything. Including that I was unable to purchase my June Hunter calendar. My daughter so kindly purchased on at your fair at Vancouver 2019 but I needed food instead. I am hoping to get this year’s. All the best June and hubby and all your followers.to a great 2021

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