Photo of a raven in mid-call with beak wide open and a good view of inside the raven's mouth and throat.

Sometimes it seems like cheating for a self-described “urban nature enthusiast” to follow the urge to get out of the city — to leave the daily crow-banter behind for a few hours and talk to the ravens.

But, every so often, a bit of raven chat is just what’s needed, so off we go.

Quite often, hours of hiking yield zero in the way of raven communication — only the whoosh of wing-displaced air as they sail indifferently by.

Photo of a raven flying in the distance against snow-covered trees

Of late, I’ve been trying my hand (or epiglottis) at raven calling.

My dream: those aloof fly-by ravens will be so intrigued by my eloquent commentary, my fluent greetings, my show-stopping non sequiturs, they’ll do a mid-air U-turn to get to know this fascinating earth-bound conversationalist.

Results, predictably, have been mixed.

But yesterday, on our hike up on Black Mountain, I heard a raven fly over, performed my “come-hither” squawk and, a few minutes later, two ravens landed near us.

Photo of two ravens standing on a mountain rock. One raven is calling with beak open.

Buoyed by my possible success, I attempted a more close-up conversation.

Below are some of the looks I got in response to my conversational gambits.

Curious, bemused …

Close-up photograph of a raven with a bemused expression, staring at the photographer who is trying to make raven sounds.

A mix of horror and astonishment …

Very close up photograph of a raven with a bemused expression, staring at the photographer who is trying to make raven sounds.

Concern. Is the poor thing hurt?

Close up of a raven's face, showing a certain degree of concern.

Another observable reaction to my vocalizations was claw biting. I’m unclear as to whether this was a form of anxious nail-biting (what is she trying to do to us?) or just boredom (when will she stop?) … or none of the above.

Photograph of a raven inspecting one of his own claws

There were some responses from the ravens but there clearly remains a vast gulf of incomprehension between us.  Much more practice is needed.

Photograph of a raven, facing the camera and in mid-call with beak open and wings out.

More hiking. More squawking.

You may wonder what my walking companions get up to while I’m trying out my raven phraseology.

Geordie puts himself into a state of doggy self-hypnosis until this boring phase is over and we can get going again.

Photo of Geordie the black and white dog standing with eyes closed in the winter sunshine.

Phillip, fittingly, takes the time to keep up with his Duolingo Spanish commitments on his phone.  Where, I ask, is the Duolingo Raven module?

Which leads me to wonder: is anyone out there studying what different raven calls mean?

I know that a group in the UK were studying this topic a few years ago as they asked me to submit some of my videos to help with their research, but I’ve never been able to find out what their conclusions were. I’ve been corresponding with a bird rescue volunteer on Vancouver Island who’s trying to compile a guide for volunteers on raven calls but can’t find any comprehensive information either.

Does anyone know if there is, anywhere, a study on the types of raven calls and what they might mean?

Duolingo, are you listening?

Photo of a raven standing on a rock with North Shore mountains in the background. The raven has fluffy and very shiny feathers.

For more posts on the wonder of raven calls:




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