Ravens in Winter

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I couldn’t wait to get back home to finish this real-life detective story by “sociobiologist” (? who knew that was a thing?) Bernd Heinrich, who seeks to discover why ravens share their finds of large meat carcasses instead of gorging on them by themselves. Someone needs to make this movie… perhaps Dances with Ravens? In the mid-1980s, Heinrich starts studying ravens at his winter cabin in Maine, driving the five hours from his teaching gig at University of Vermont every weekend to make field observations, hauling hundreds of pounds of meat (dead cows, goats, moose, etc.) up the snowed in trail to his cabin, setting up blinds from which to watch, suffering mighty cold temps in his un-chinked cabin. He notes behavior, recruits his students to help tag/weigh/record trapped ravens that are then set loose, builds a huge cage from which to study trapped bird behavior most closely mimicking that of untrapped birds. His conclusions, after many years of study and freezing his ass off swaying at the top of hundred foot trees pre-dawn while he watches flocks of ravens descend on a bait, were that unpaired juvenile ravens most likely recruit other ravens to bait sites as a way of overwhelming resident dominant pairs to gain access to the food and also to boost their status as potential mates. They bring word of food back to a roost, and a flock of ravens will land and start feeding shortly after dawn on the day after the food was discovered by the juvie. Fascinating stuff!