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Posted: 2nd May 2008

It's funny how we get attached to the wild birds around us.  People often talk about their garden birds as if they were their pets, saying things like "our friendly robin", or "our family of blackbirds".  Here at UK Safari we read this sort of thing everyvday in the emails we receive.  It's nothing unusual.  But when someone begins a message with "Really terrible news about my beloved Ravens" it tends to stand out.

The email in question was from Elizabeth Close in Northern Ireland. She of 'Bumblebee' fame.  It turns out the pair of ravens she's been watching for the past 15 years had gone missing.

On Monday their chicks were unusually vocal, in their nest at the top of an 8m conifer.  One had fallen and was at the foot of the tree.  Elizabeth's son managed to climb to the nest where he found three starved chicks - one already dead.

Elizabeth spent six hours waiting for the adults to return but they didn't show.  The intention was to return the fallen chick, but as the chicks were attracting the attention from the local hungry buzzards it was deemed best to remove the other two from the nest.  She later learned from a neighbour that shots had been heard in the area, which would explain the disappearance of both parents, who up until then had done such a good job.

Mythology surrounding ravens says that if a person harms or kills a raven they will suffer the same fate within a year.   We can only hope.

Elizabeth now has an old dog bed filled with three, four week old, rapidly growing raven chicks.  The "3 Amigos" as they've been dubbed are doing fine.  They're able to stand now and are focusing well.  At the moment they are still 'nest-bound', so they have their day nest of dog basket, and night box of cardboard.  Incredibly they do all their poop in one corner of the night box, and they never mess inside their dog box!  After only a few days they know the routine and one in particular is very smart.

The idea of putting on a black glove and screen (a cunning mother raven disguise) was considered for feeding them, but having discussed this with a few experts it was decided they will never be fit for the wild.

So to the point of this already over-lengthy item - what to do next?

Elizabeth doesn't want them to spend their lives in a cage, and would not rate their chances in the wild around her home, given there's still at least one gun-happy resident at large.  Ideally she'd like the chicks to go to a sanctuary, or a professional who could train them and give them a life of semi-freedom (falconry style), or use them to raise public awareness.  These are, after all, very intelligent birds.

Whoever takes them on will have a serious responsibility.  Ravens, being Schedule 1 birds, require a license if they're being kept in captivity.  Ravens are also big birds, and they have an "interesting" diet.  They can live for 50 years too.

The 3 Amigos will be fledging in about a week, so would need to get to a trainer soon before they imprint too much.

SEE UPDATE: Raising Ravens

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