Monday, June 2, 2008

Black Death on the Wing

The hot, sunny days of dry summer are upon us here in Arizona. It reached 100 degrees yesterday and we are going for it again today. A steady light and dry wind is blowing outside while I am sitting at my computer working on a new Blogpost about a drive Gus and I took this weekend through Box Canyon. Suddenly I hear a noise out the window. I look up through the still closed plantation shutters to see a hug dark bird perched on the block wall near my birdbath and feeders. I stand up to get a better view and I am amazed to see a common raven pinning a just killed mourning dove to the top of the wall. The Raven stands over the bird, his huge black beak gaping, and proceeds to rip soft gray feathers from the hopefully dead bird.


I stand here agog, my own mouth gaping, for I have never seen a raven kill any live animal before. I suppose I could have read about this somewhere, but to witness it first hand is amazing and startling. I look to my desk where my Nikon D80 lies. I carefully pick it up, turn it on, and then stop. How will I focus on the bird through the shutters. I now curse myself for not folding them back earlier as I usually do. I know if I creep closer to the blinds and try to insert my lens through the slats, the bird will see me and flee. I start to focus between the slats from a distance and just as I get the bird in focus, it sees me and flies off.


I’m berating myself for a lost opportunity, when I realize it may have just flown to a nearby rooftop to finish its meal. A quick glance out the front window reveals the raven devouring the mourning dove atop my neighbor’s roof. Quietly I open the front door. I have my camera set on sports mode and I fully extend the zoom before raising the camera to snap off a photo. Click. I get this shot. Can you see the feathers hanging from the beak and drifting down off the corner of the building?


I take a step closer and click again. The raven continues to rip apart the dove.


Finally, I get even closer and it spies me. The black killer grabs what’s left of the mourning dove and flies to a more private location to finish its meal with sunlight glinting off the poor bird’s dead feet.

18 comments:

Beth said...

oh my goodness. I actually felt the tension as I read that. I didn't think that ravens could rip things open, I thought it had to be started by another animal (I read that in The Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich). Maybe doves are tender--I kind of would expect them to be, wouldn't you?

Kathiesbirds said...

Beth, I always thought ravens were scavengers, eating things already dead. I guess not! We learn something knew everyday, don't we! I only wish I had gotten the shot out the window when it was so close!

Texas Travelers said...

Ravens are extremely intelligent and will take any advantage of a food source. You probably already know that Ravens and Crow take a large number of fledgling birds still in the nest. (Was the Dove fully grown?). There is the possibility that the bird was fully feathered and just had not left the nest yet.

Ravens and Crows are omnivorous and will feed on seeds, invertebrates, and carrion. They are opportunistic and learn new food supplies very easily.

Although it may be shocking, it is not surprising.

When one observes Nature long enough, you see some things that may be harsh, but they are part of the natural world. I personally have never seen a Raven take a grown bird on the wing.

Interesting post,
Troy

Kathiesbirds said...

Troy, I believe it was an adult bird and the sound of the raven striking is what alerted me to look up. When I saw the huge black body I was amazed! I know natrure can be harsh and goodness knows there is no lack of mourning doves in my neighborhood. I only hope the poor thing perished quickly! I do not think this is the first time this has happened as last week I found a mess of feathers on the blockwall out back. Something had killed a dove and quickly, then flew off with the remains. I was talking on the phone, wandering around and peeking out the door. One minute no feathers, next peek, a mess! It all happened so quickly and I never saw it. Now I suspect this raven has found an abundant food source at my feeders!

Shellmo said...

Wow - the raven is a "little" ferocious. Poor mourning dove - they are so sweet.

DJB's Photo Adventures said...

This weekend I saw a Raven take a live vole or ground squirrel from the ground up to a telephone pole and rip it apart to eat!

James said...

I've seen ravens snatch baby house finches (sparrows) from under eaves and awnings. They're predatory if they want to be!

It's Time to Live... said...

Great images, thanks for the visit.

Island Rambles Blog said...

Good shots of the raven and his prey....I saw a similar thing when a hawk got one of my birds and sat in front of me and plucked it...it is a very harsh thing to witness..but I have not seen a raven do this and we have a lot of ravens ...oh I love the post below on the quail also...(hi kathie, got so excited forgot to say Hi!!!)

Abraham Lincoln said...

Sadly, it was lunch time and the bird was lunch. It happens. You are so lucky to be able to be there with a camera and photograph the event so we can all see it. Not many souls get to see something as natural as this.

Nice photography. Good camera.

Gallicissa said...

Interesting foraging observation Kathie. Corvids are notorious for such cruel acts universally. Nice camera work.

Gallicissa said...

Have you seen this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkTZ3Hrb5F0

jalynn01 said...

Wow! Your story sure grabbed my attention and I'm so glad you got some pictures. Great job!

Ur-spo said...

I love Raven!
I am quite fond of the Pacific Northwest and I collect art from that region. Raven and his shennanigans are frequent stories.
I have never seen a live Raven. I see them as splendid trickster birds rather than something omnious.

Kathiesbirds said...

Shellmo, mourning doves are so sweet. Thanks for dropping in.

Djb, Welcome! I'm glad to find someone else who has witnessed a raven acting like a bird of prey. Did you get any shots of this behavior?

James, so you've seen this too? Interesting.

It's time to live, nice to see you.

Island Rambles, cheers! Good to hear from you.

Abe, I know. We all have to eat. I just wish I had gotten that first shot. That raven was huge! Thanks for your comment!

jalynn, thank you! As always, it's nice to see you!

Ur-spo, I do believe they are revered in native culture, are they not? Sometimes they are the symbol of the Creator in native stories if I'm not mistaken. I know they are very intelligent birds. I'm still impressed by the memory of what I saw yesterday. Thank you for stopping by my blog and commenting.

Kathiesbirds said...

Gallicissa, I knew crows and ravens were intelligent birds, but that video is amazing! Thanks for telling me about it! Now if the bird could only figure out how to push the button to change the light for itself...

Marvin said...

Excellent photos and narrative -- and I learned something. Thank you.

Kathiesbirds said...

Marvin, you are welcome! I just learned something from your blog also! So, back attcha!