5 Facts You Didn’t Know About Ravens

Did American Indians Use Ravens to Hunt Buffalo?

The Raven is an important figure in American Indian culture.  Generally seen as playful, ravens have been revered by some tribes and supposedly used for hunting by others.  Here are five facts you didn’t know (you wanted to know) about ravens:

  1. Their intelligence ranks with dolphins and chimpanzees.

Ravens can learn to speak better than parrots and are also skilled mimics, imitating sounds like car engines, toilets flushing, wolves, and other birdcalls.  In recent scientific tests, a raven had to get a piece of food by pulling up a length of string, anchoring it with its claw, and then repeating the process until it could reach the food at the end of the string.  Most ravens in the test got the food on the first try, some even completing the task in 30 seconds!

  1. Native Americans Allegedly Used Ravens to Hunt Buffalo

According to Comanche and Sioux traditions, if a raven flew over camp while croaking, it would lead hunters to the buffalo herds.  In the Sioux tradition, the raven was white, but for Comanche tribes, the common black raven would suffice.  While it is difficult to substantiate this practice, ravens are effective hunters who sometime use cooperative tactics.  Teams of these birds have been observed hunting game too large for a single raven.

  1. Ravens Show Empathy Toward One Another

As teenage ravens strike out on their own, they form friend group and create a new “unkindness” (a flock of ravens). Ravens will respond in a friendly way, even if they haven’t seen one another for a span of up to three years. If a raven’s friend loses a fight, the friend will console the loser.  Ravens will respond negatively to their enemies and be suspicious of unfamiliar ravens.

  1. Ravens Play

Ravens have been seen using snow-covered roofs as slides and will roll down snowy hills.  They will also taunt other creatures for fun.  In a display that is rare in the animal world, ravens play keep-away with wolves, otters, and dogs, by using rocks, golf balls, pinecones or sticks.  The only explanation for their antics seems to be that they find it amusing.

  1. Anting

Raven (as well as other songbirds and jays) will lie down in an anthill and roll around until the ants swarm them.  They also chew up ants and rub the guts of this insect on their feathers.  Scientists think the ants might serve as an insecticide or fungicide, or that ant secrete a substance that soothes a molting bird’s skin.


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