Ravens Show Emotions

July 27, 2010 by  
Filed under Features

Ravens have had a stigma attached to them for centuries, symbolizing darkness in poems, songs and movies. With their black plumage and black eyes, they would seem to be the ideal bird to symbolize death and depression, but these fascinating birds also have a compassionate and social side to them that few have been aware of until recently. Researchers specifically chose ravens for their studies, due to the fact that ravens stay in a social flock for approximately ten years of their lives before finding a mate and pairing off. This characteristic of the raven has allowed researchers to study how they interact, and even how they console each other.

More than 150 fights were documented and recorded by the researchers over a two year study period to learn more about the socialization of the ravens. A special group of hand-reared ravens were chosen for the study, allowing them to live in a flock as they would in the wild. The young ravens showed all the natural signs of birds that are not in captivity, such as fighting for dominance and various other reasons. From these conflicts it could easily be assessed which of the birds were the victims, which were the aggressors and those who can be classified as bystanders.

The study showed that once a fight had occurred between the birds, bystanders that had a relationship with the victim would console each other. At times, victims would be consoled by random bystanders through preening or even just by touch. It was also observed that bystanders did not fear approaching a victim, as victims rarely initiated aggressive behavior, and that victims could also approach other birds in the flock after an altercation without leading to another unprovoked fight. Victims could, however, not approach their aggressor. The act of consoling a victim also seems to bring peace to the flock. Relationships between birds can also blossom through the act of consoling, bringing the flock together again. Emotional acts that were once only attributed to humans can now also be seen in birds, and the study of the ravens has confirmed this fact. Nature never ceases to amaze us and teaches us something new each day. In this case, the ravens have revealed a softer and lighter side to their personalities.

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