Ravens at Wellesley College

In response to the entry on urban wildlife, Dr. Gordon Fisher sent this message from Professor Nick Rodenhouse about ravens nesting at Wellesley College:

Many of you may know that we have a pair of Common Ravens nesting on the Science Center.  They can often be heard and seen as you enter the door by the Science Library.  We have been able to put a video camera near the nest, and you can watch their activity at http://www.wellesley.edu/ravencam .  The large black birds present no threat to people.  To learn more about ravens, go to Birds of North American Online via the Wellesley College Library.

We are recording their behavior at the nest 24 hours per day for scientific purposes.  Not much is known about ravens in urban environments, and no one has ever before had the opportunity to observe closely urban ravens at the nest.  Much can potentially be learned about parental behavior, vocalizations, diet, etc.  Ravens until recently have been birds of the wilds in the Northeast, but they have been increasing in abundance in this area since the mid 1970s — no one knows why.  Male and female ravens look alike, but only the female incubates the eggs.  The eggs should hatch in about 12 days (they have been incubating already for about 8 days).  If all goes well, the young will remain in the nest for another five weeks, leaving the nest at about the time of “graduation.”  Ravens are highly social, vocal, creative and love to have fun.  If they are successful in raising two offspring, we will see them learning and playing and hear them laughing over the campus this summer.  It will be a lot of fun for us all.

Having the opportunity to observe ravens is not only unusual, but also emblematic of the re-wilding that has taken place in New England over the past century. Nature is resilient and numerous other wild animal species are now living with us including: American turkey, beaver, pileated woodpeckers, white-tailed deer, etc. This a positive message for all of those concerned about the environment.

Nicholas L. Rodenhouse
Professor of Biological Sciences
Frost Professor of Environmental Studies

Dr. Fisher added these reflections:

I always thought Ravens were the signature birds of the Boreal forest, an animal that was the synonymous with wilderness.  Your post on the Urban Bestiary got me thinking.  The reforestation of the Northeastern US over the past 60 or so years has had a profound impact on our native wild creatures.  While growing up outside of Baltimore I never saw a Virginia White Tailed Deer or a Canada Goose, a Red-Bellied Woodpecker, a Pileated Woodpecker, Eagles, Carolina Wren, Snow Geese, or Red Tailed Hawk and others.  Now I encounter them nearly every day.

What’s more amazing, Peregrine Falcons nest on the window ledges of Wilmington’s  tall buildings and wild turkeys have rebounded in the Northeast.

Coyotes have invade almost all of the eastern US and now a more robust version, called the Coy-Wolf is taking over even in our major cities.  Look for the documentary on them on the National Geographic TV channel.  Fran and I saw two of them in Long Lake this winter.  They looked to us to be wolves and are indeed a hybrid of the western coyote and the Canadian Red Wolf.  Some say that the reason Ravens are flourishing is because the Coy-Wolves are hunting as wolves do and the Ravens are feasting on their kills.

So rather than our native wildlife succumbing to urbanization, they have adapted to the urban landscape quite well.  Black Bears are a plague in New Jersey and moose have been spotted living in the median of Route 128.  It is a crazy world!

Dr. Fisher is not only a fine observer of things. He is also a fine craftsman, specializing in Adirondack guideboats. His website is  http://adirondack-guideboat.com/guideboat.html




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s