Friday, 23 October 2020

Spooky animals: The OVWBCC shares the truth about Raven in real life and folklore

Halloween's haunted animals: The truth about the ominous and dark trickster; the Raven

Halloween's haunted animals: The truth about the ominous and dark trickster; the Raven

Thank you to Patty McLaughlin of the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre for illuminating the Raven for the Paws For Reaction readers!


When I think about Halloween symbolism, things that come to mind are spirits, monsters, witches, and vampires. But what about the animals? Black cats with their backs arched, howling werewolves, slick Ravens crowing warnings, and swooping bats are all signature Halloween animals. Folklore and mythology weave their way into the spooky stories we tell and animals are the stars of these terrifying tales. 

  

Ravens appear in stories and folklore as ominous birds, sometimes giving warnings or attacking with their pointed beaks. They star in movies, terrifying a blonde leading lady in black and white. They show up in literature, cawing out 'Nevermore.' They perch on a witch's shoulder, their familiar, sent to the sky as a watchful eye. 


To find out more about this dark figure in Halloween folklore, I connected with Patty McLaughlin, the Education and Public Engagement Coordinator at the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre. She helped me spell some of the mythology about the raven and find out what this bird is really all about. 

Spooky animals: The OVWBCC shares the truth about Raven in real life and folklore


How did the raven become linked to 'evil'? 

My burning question is how did the Raven become this dark figure used in Halloween stories and home decor? "There are so many myths and beliefs about Ravens throughout history, cultures, and religions! Being a large, loud, entirely black bird that often feeds on animals and carrion, it is no surprise that many believe spotting or having a Raven hanging around is a bad or evil omen," said McLaughlin. "They have a large vocal repertoire and have the ability to learn and mimic sounds as if they were talking. Many believe they are a link between the living world and the dead, with the ability to communicate and deliver messages. Creepy indeed!"


The Raven is not just an evil omen. McLaughlin explains that some of the mythology surrounding this bird is more unexpected. "Not everyone believes they bring purely evil messages though. In Indigenous peoples' mythology, the Raven is seen as having an important role in many creation stories of the world. But they are also very respectful of the Raven's intelligence, sometimes bringing important messages for guidance," McLaughlin explained. "But the Raven also viewed as a trickster. There is no doubt that the Raven has fascinated us for a very long time as an intelligent and mysterious animal!" 

Halloween animals the truth about the Raven


What is the Raven really like?

Talkers, tricksters, villains, creators- this winged creature has a reputation that proceeds itself. Since the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre rescues and rehabilitates over 120 different bird species, I asked McLaughlin what the Raven's personality is really like? Are they really as terrifying as they seem?


"We think people perceive them as mean because they do eat other animals, are very territorial, will mob birds of prey, and they are not shy about any of it!" McLaughlin said. "They can often be seen eating roadkill and we have heard many stories of Ravens grabbing a baby bird or mammal right out from under the watchful eye of their parents. Heartwrenching to see for sure! Ravens will also attack other Ravens that enter their territory during the breeding season and will aggressively chase owls and hawks away. So on the surface, they certainly do appear to be mean, but this is how they survive."


People who work with birds, like the amazing folks at the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre, have a different perspective about the personality and habits of the Raven. "If you take the time to observe them you will soon realize they are a very intelligent, observant, and playful birds. In captivity, our main focus is to keep them stimulated with different food and toys. Without, they often will start investigating on their own- like making holes in drywall, or tossing food dishes upside down just for fun," McLaughlin said. 


"Their beak is something to be very aware of, and we do wear gloves when we handle the Ravens in our care. But if they are not being handled, they do not mind us being in the same room cleaning around them, changing food dishes out of their cage, and other things. In comparison, we were gloves, a full fencing mask when entering a room with a Great Blue Heron, and would never attempt to clean without removing the Heron first. Ravens are not even in the top 10 of mean birds for us!" 

Spooky animals: The OVWBCC shares the truth about Raven in real life and folklore

What experience does the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre have with Ravens?

The team at the Centre has cared for many different species of birds. So what about the Raven? "Ravens are becoming more numerous around Ottawa so we now see about a dozen a year arriving at the Centre for care. This year we have had a few very memorable ones. One VERY loud baby Raven that never stopped cawing, even after being fed- it also became a very picky eater!" McLaughlin said. 


"The other was a Raven that was surviving in the wild with an injured leg for some time. It had lost all feeling and ability to move the leg and somehow was still able to survive. Amputation is not something that is often done at the Centre, but we felt this Raven was an ideal candidate. Two days after surgery the Raven was able to move around better than before the surgery. It lovingly received the nickname Peggy. Both Peggy and the young one spent the summer together at the Centre and bonded. It was an amazing day in September when both of these Ravens were released back where Peggy was originally found."


Check out some video footage of these Ravens on the Centre's Facebook page. You can learn more about Peggy's Story, see the baby Raven, and see the baby all grown up- and getting picky!

Spooky animals: The OVWBCC shares the truth about Raven in real life and folklore

Some interesting facts about the Raven

Learning about this bird uncovered some contradictions to the evil folklore of the Raven. McLaughlin shared some additional surprising facts about the Raven that I wasn't aware of. "Young Ravens have baby blue eyes. Once they leave the nest they are about the size of mom and dad but an easy way to tell the age of a Raven is to look at their eyes. By the end of the summer, their eyes will be fully developed and be all black like their parents." 


A blue-eyed bird with black feathers! Not what I was expecting at all. McLaughlin shared more about the Raven's ability to do impressions. "They have the ability to mimic other birds and in captivity, they have been known to mimic some words. In past years we have had a Raven say 'hello' back to us." 


A Raven that says hello- I understand why some folks find them creepy. They are also master trick-or-treaters... sort of. "An acrobatic flyer, they can often be seen doing 'tricks' such as rolls, flips, and even flying up-side-down," McLaughlin said. "They have been observed curiously playing with items they find or making their own toys out of twigs which they may use to poke, throw, or drop for fun." 

kids books


How can you help the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre?

Ravens, and other birds, need your help. Different bird species play an important part in the biodiversity of our community and help create a balanced and thriving ecosystem. One easy way you can make a positive impact on that is to support local wildlife conservation efforts. "The Centre has had an incredible year with a significant increase in the number of birds coming in. We just recently surpassed 4000 birds for the year- we received 3238 birds in 2019," McLaughlin said. 


"While we cannot have volunteers at this time because of COVID-19 safety concerns, we greatly appreciate every donation to the Centre. You can donate online, sponsor a bird, become a member, purchase our fundraising calendars, book a virtual or outdoor educational presentation, and follow us on social media to help spread the word about the important work we do!"

Spooky animals: The OVWBCC shares the truth about Raven in real life and folklore

Become a wild bird advocate and support your community- and the planet!

Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre is proof that one small act of kindness can change the world. It can lead to saving thousands of lives. To learn more about the lives they save, check out their Facebook page!


Please consider donating.  CLICK HERE to find out how you can make a DONATION to Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care CentreDonate online or purchase them an item off of their Amazon wishlist!


For more information about the Centre and how to support please visit https://wildbirdcarecentre.org/


Spooky animals: The OVWBCC shares the truth about Raven in real life and folklore


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