birding-aus Raven feeding behavior and the hardiness of Feral Pigeons

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Subject: birding-aus Raven feeding behavior and the hardiness of Feral Pigeons
From: Chris Shinton <>
Date: Tue, 18 May 1999 18:01:40 +1000
On 18/5/99, from my office window in suburban Sydney, I observed the
following behavior of an Australian Raven and the remarkable resilience
of a Feral Pigeon. The action took place at a range of approximately 25
metres and I could not hear any vocalisations because of the window
A single adult Feral Pigeon, feeding on a lawn, was startled into flight
by a low pass from one of a pair of Australian Ravens, 1 large bird
(Raven A) and a smaller bird (Raven B).
The pigeon reached a height of about 1 metre above the ground before
being forced down by Raven A which attacked from the rear and at about
the same height, using its body weight to push the pigeon down. After an
initial struggle, lasting 10 seconds or so, the pigeon lay on its back,
wings outstretched, with Raven A standing on its abdomen and stabbing
with its bill about 5 or 6 times at its head and chest until the pigeon
was still. Raven A began to pluck feathers from the neck and breast in a
very determined manner, and Raven B plucked tail and wing feathers.
Further stabbing from Raven A appeared to open the neck / chest cavity.
Raven B obtained food, red in colour and about half of its bill length,
from the neck / chest area, and moved 2 metres away to consume it. Raven
A then stepped off the pigeons body. Immediately the pigeon began to
flutter, righted itself and fluttered into cover among the dense
shrubbery bordering the lawn. The extent of injury to the pigeon could
not be seen, although there was some red discolouration obvious at the
neck. Raven A pursued it, then came back to the lawn without the pigeon.
The pigeon was still fluttering inside the shrubbery. Raven A attacked
again, disappearing completely then backing out of the shrubbery with
the pigeon grasped in its bill, by the body, and dragging it 1 to 1.5
metres to the centre of the lawn. Raven B, which had not participated in
the attack, approached but was driven off by Raven A.
This time the pigeon was belly down and Raven A stabbed 8 or 10 times at
the head and neck.
Both ravens then recommenced plucking feathers from the pigeon. After
about 1 minute the pigeon roused itself again and made for the shrubbery
with a much weaker fluttering but was intercepted by Raven A, which
dragged it into the centre of the lawn and began stabbing again. Raven B
approached, but Raven A threatened, then dragged the pigeon further
away, to a position where it was partly obscured from my view. Raven A
then recommenced plucking from the chest of the pigeon.
Raven B approached again and assisted in the plucking. The Ravens were
then disturbed by a spout of water from a malfunctioning pool cleaner
and flew some 10 metres away from the kill.
At no time was Raven A observed eating from the pigeon.
I was distracted at this point by a phone call (I was at work after all
!), after which the Ravens could not be seen although the pigeon's
remains were in the same place.
Hope that this is of interest.

Chris Shinton

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