The Suffolk Owl Sanctuary welcomes any opportunity to add to the diversity of its resident bird population - not only does this enrich the visitor experience, it also expands the knowledge of the falconry staff.
Although this usually means acquiring a new owl or other bird of prey, on occasion other interesting avians might be acquired to increase the variety of the birds on show. A recent addition has proved to be just such an asset to the team - our new Raven, Rey (nee Charlie), arrived at the sanctuary in May and quickly settled into her new custom built aviary.
Ravens are the largest of the crow (Corvus) family and extremely clever and adaptable, able to live in any climate, from the Arctic to the deserts of North Africa. They are extremely territorial birds and will display aggressive behaviour towards other birds trespassing on their “patch”.
In the wild, a raven’s lifespan is generally around 10-15 years, but in captivity, with protection from predators and disease, they can live for 30 to 40 years.
Although the collective noun for ravens is an “unkindness” this is not a true refection of their nature and they will loyally pair for life.
Charlie’s elegant, lustrous plumage and inquisitive nature have proved an instant hit with visitors. She is a clever bird with a large character and her antics can keep children and adults equally entertained! Due to her intelligence, it is necessary to provide articles for enrichment in her aviary, so, unlike the bird of prey aviaries, Charlie’s is well equipped with bell, toys and mirror!
Ravens are also excellent mimics and can copy many of the sounds of their environment… including human speech, so visitors may want to watch their Ps and Qs!! It is believed that individual birds can gather between 15-30 different calls which can travel over a great distance - Charlie’s voice will doubtless be heard all over the sanctuary! Even in the wild, ravens will engage in play (such as sliding down snowy banks!) and will hoard shiny objects such as small stones and pieces of metal - a behaviour designed to impress other ravens!
One of the sanctuary’s falconers will be working closely with Charlie over the next few months, acclimatising her to her new environment and ensuring that she feels familiar and comfortable with her new handler in order for a new training programme to begin.
By next summer, it is hoped that Rey will be demonstrating the fascinating and complex character of birds of the Corvus genus in general and of ravens in particular both in public flying displays and within her own accommodation!
UPDATE: Strange but True Department. After a few months at the Sanctuary, we noticed that 'Charlie' tended to get a little agitated when visitors opened the conversation with 'Hello Charlie!" Someone suggested that it may be a reaction to the name - Charlie - so we changed it to 'Rey' - and she's been fine ever since.