They’re Watching Us

I was doing laundry when I heard a raven squawking with an urgency I had never heard. We have many ravens in the neighborhood, and they are big talkers, but this message was a new one. I went to the window and saw it on a low branch about eye level. It was scolding, cursing, berating, reading the riot act to someone or something on the ground, head lunging forwarding, eye laser-focused. A snake, I thought. That is my fallback threat, so I cautiously headed for the back door to get a better look. As I approached, I saw the door was already ajar and stepped outside. The raven was raising a ruckus because our black indoor cat Bennie had escaped and was on the ground below the raven. He was hunched close to the ground, ears back, taking his scolding. I was struck by the two solid black creatures in relationship. Bennie had been headed for the fence, on the other side of which were coyotes, hawks, snakes, and more, and the raven had turned him back. He scurried back into the house and the crisis was over.

Raven scolding
Benny back home

I know that ravens and crows, the whole corvid family of birds, are really smart. They can perform intricate tasks, they can recognize humans and keep track of their doings. There are fascinating stories in the research literature of ravens and crows that have returned lost items to the right person, have created tools to retrieve food, and have passed on information about dangerous people (like lab scientists on a university campus) to their offspring and their offspring. And apparently they know when a cat belongs in the house and not outside, and how to effectuate getting the cat back inside. There is no doubt in my mind that the bird was stopping Bennie in his tracks and alerting me to come and retrieve the escapee. I thanked it profusely, and I believe it understood.

Read More