ANTHROPOMORPHORWHATCHACALLIT

Ravens are considered the most intelligent of birds. They become aerobatic maestros at a few weeks of age, and even years into adulthood demonstrate more playful curiosity than many of our own species, while marking lift for us as if that were their divine purpose. Living decades in one place, they develop what we might call personalities, though the ‘sentiments’ they express are nothing akin to sympathy or generosity. Ravens share with coyotes the impish mischief and clever intent for which native peoples sanctify both species as trickster gods, improvising odd, comical capers apparently for the bird-brained fun of it. I think of both groups as devious half cousins, socially inferior yet always maintaining some unseemly advantage. And always laughing about it!

Somewhere in the past, people gave illustrative names to flocks of different birds, such as a ‘raft of ducks’, a ‘ballet of swans’, a ‘flamboyance of flamingos’ and quite aptly, a ‘conspiracy of ravens’. I’ve learned a lot from the tricks such conspiracies have played on me.

Once I was soaring along a mountain range with these rascals marking lift everywhere they found it, but always moving on before I arrived. Hawks and eagles will hold position as we approach, but ravens always flee. After eluding me several times in different ways, they finally climbed right up into the base of a cloud — so (don’t tell anyone) I sneaked into the attic with them. Of course that didn’t work, and while I recovered from a frightening inverted spiral they moved on again.

Next, I spotted them where you’d naturally expect sink, downwind of a mountain. But they were circling and climbing, so I followed there too. Turned out they were in a sink hole and flapping their wings! Once I fell for it, the conspiracy quickly hurried back across that ridge to the kind air they lured me from and left me behind for good.

And yes, if you watch long enough, ravens also share with coyotes an uncanny ability to simply dis a p p e  a  r…