I was on my way home this week when I saw a dead raven on the main road through town. Traffic casualties for animals are common wherever animals cross a busy road like this one or in the case of a bird, swoop for prey.
But a raven? This was a first. Ravens and crows are just too smart to be hit although this bird was.
I remember reading years ago about a New Caldedonian crow named Betty. This species of crow sticks twigs into logs to get at insects and their larvae. As an experiment, biologists at Oxford University gave Betty and a male crow named Abel two pieces of wire to retrieve meat from a narrow tube. One wire had a hooked end. The other didn’t.
Abel chose the ready-made hook. The resourceful Betty took the straight wire and made her own. The birds are that crafty. At least that’s the case for Betty.
(Videos are on the web for those who want to see the famous Betty in action. And New Caledonia honored Betty with a postage stamp.)
Here in Northern New Mexico we have plenty of ravens and their cousins, crows, magpies, and jays. They fly over our spot on this mesa, their wings making a large swoosh as they power themselves forward. Or they sail the wind currents. In town, ravens roost in trees and cluck down at us.
On my early morning drive, I often see ravens hopping on the road, frequently in a group, as they pick on something dead. They deftly get out of the way when a vehicle approaches.
But I had never seen a dead raven until the other day. My theory is something high like a tractor trailer caught the raven mid-flight. How else would such a clever bird be caught?