raven defined in 1930 yearraven - Raven;
raven - Black with purple reflections; tail black; iris with two circles, the inner grey, the outer ash-brown. Length, twenty-five inches.
The raven has the reputation, true or false, of being one of the longest-lived birds; certainly it is one of the hardiest, and capable of adapting itself to the greatest extremes of temperature. Its range in the northern hemisphere extends from the regions of ' thick-ribbed ice ' to the damp, hot woods and burning coasts of Southern Mexico and Central America. The tropical jaguar may help it to a meal at one extremity of its range, the polar bear at the other. Compared to such diversities of climate and of other conditions, those of the British Islands are as nothing, From the Isle of Wight and the southern coast to the northern extremity of Scotland, and beyond, to ' utmost Kilda's lonely isle,' the raven has lived in what, to a bird of his grit, must have been a very pleasant garden with a mild and equable temperature throughout the year. Formerly he was a fairly common bird in all parts of our island, and it is probable that some protection was accorded to him by owners of large estates, in spite of his evil reputation, on account of some such sentiment as now exists with regard to the rook. A pair of ravens in a woodland district, Seebohm says, ' was often considered the pride and pest of the parish.' But the sentiment, if it existed, was not strong enough, and the constant persecution of the bird by its two principal enemies, the gamekeeper and the shepherd, joined by a third during the present century in the ' collector,' has gradually driven it from all, or well-nigh all, its ancient inland haunts, and it now exists in its last strongholds, the rugged iron-bound sea-coast on the northern coasts of Scotland and the neighbouring islands. A few - a very few - pairs are still to be met with on some of the cliffs on the south and south-west coasts of England, and on the Welsh coast; but even in the rudest and most solitary localities inhabited by it the bird can keep its hold on life only by means of a wariness and sagacity exceeding that of most other wild and persecuted species.
Like most of the members of its family, the raven is omnivorous, feeding indiscriminately on grubs, worms, insects, grain, fruit, carrion, and animal food of all kinds. Being so much bigger and more powerful than other crows, with a larger appetite to satisfy, he is more rapacious in his habits, and bolder in attacking animals of large size. He will readily attack a small lamb left by its dam, and pick out its eyes; but, as a rule, his attacks on lambs and sheep are confined to the very young and to the sickly or dying. He also attacks hares, rabbits, and birds of various kinds, when he finds them ailing or wounded by shot. He is fond of eggs, as well as of nestlings, and plunders the nests of the sea-birds that inhabit the cliffs in his neighbourhood. But the greatest part of his food consists of dead animal matter cast up by the sea, and carrion of all kinds: a dead sheep will afford him pasture for some days, and keep him out of mischief - for he can be hawk or vulture as occasion offers.
In appearance the raven is a larger rook or carrion crow; he is a fine bird, and his large size, the uniform blackness of his plumage, and his deep, harsh, and human-like, croaking voice, strongly impress the imagination. But the effect produced on the mind by the raven is, doubtless, in part due to the bird's reputation, to its ancient historical fame, its large place in our older literature, and to the various sombre superstitions connected with it. When feeding on a carcase his appearance is not engaging: there is a lack of dignity in his sidling or ' loping ' motions, and savage haste in tearing at the flesh, with a startled look round after each morsel. When disturbed from his repast the slow, cumbrous, flapping flight as he rises strongly reminds you of the vulture. He makes a nobler figure when soaring high in the air, or along the face of some huge beetling cliff that fronts the sea; for then his flight has power and ease as he falls and rises, playing, like a giant chough or jackdaw, with his mate.
The raven pairs for life, and uses the same nest year after year. A pair or two may still breed in a tree somewhere in Scotland or in the north of England, but, in almost all cases, the bird now makes his nest on a ledge of rock on some cliff on the sea-coast. It is a rude, bulky structure, formed of sticks and heather, and fined with grass and wool. The eggs are four to six in number, bluish green in ground-colour, more or less thickly spotted and marked with dark olive-brown.
The raven is the earliest bird to breed in this country: the nest-building begins in January, and the eggs are laid in February or March.
Besides the eight species described, a ninth member of the corvine family has been included among British birds; this is the nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes), a very irregular straggler to our shores from northern Europe.
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