To: Mark Clayton <>, 'Maurits Zwankhuizen' <>, 'Peter Ormay' <>, 'Brian Thorp' <>
Subject: Suicide?
From: Bob Rusk <>
Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2014 03:59:52 -0700 (PDT)
There have been many theories to why this has happened to the ill fated Raven, but has anyone considered the "OOOPS" factor. This unfortunately occurs far more often than one would wish and usually when being distracted by something else. This drastic case is just one more reason to remember to first look left then right and then left again! This timely reminder could save your life
On Monday, 31 March 2014 8:20 PM, Mark Clayton <> wrote:
I think we may be getting a little carried away with this. I have seen quite a few ravens and crows hit by vehicles and have nearly hit one or two myself. Invariably the birds that do get hit by cars are juveniles. Several years ago on a trip to Charcoal Tank there were two adult and two juveniles feeding on a small road kill (rabbit??) when a lady driving a Mercedes drove straight over the top of one of the juveniles. She made no attempt to miss the birds , but the two adults and one of the juveniles moved to the side of the road as the car approached.
Did anyone notice the eye colour of the bird that started this discussion – White in adult corvids and brown (or dark) in juveniles?
From: Maurits Zwankhuizen [
Sent: Monday, 31 March 2014 6:34 PM
To: Peter Ormay; 'Brian Thorp'
Cc: 'COG-L'; 'John Brown'; 'muriel story'
Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] Suicide?
I believe that the observation should not be dismissed out-of-hand.  We do tend to anthropomorphise the world around us and impute actions onto other creatures which are highly unlikely or even impossible.  If this observation had involved any other type of bird, the answer would be a categorical 'no'.  Corvids, however, have managed to surprise us on many occasions with their intelligence (and it's unfortunate that suicide is the domain of the intelligent). 
There are many animals which, when they feel that their time is nigh, remove themselves from their pack or herd to die quietly somewhere.  Elephants are known to mourn and grieve their dead relatives, and dogs have starved themselves to death when their owners die.  So it is not crazy to suggest that an intelligent creature like a raven would be aware that it is ailing and that it is 'time to go' without that instinct requiring that it knows what death is.  It would, however, set a precedent, as suicide is practically unknown outside the realm of humanity.  Lemmings don't rush off cliffs, pilot whales don't beach themselves in an concerted effort to end their lives, and the aforementioned dogs don't starve themselves so that they can be reunited with their owners in heaven.
Ravens are also extremely savvy when it comes to motor vehicles.  They are the least likely of all birds to be run over, even though they love to hang around on the edge of roads for the prospect of road-kill.  They would have seen many other animals fall victim to cars, so would know what would happen if they got in the way of one.
Finally, we have the (naturally subjective) opinion of the observer, although the raven must have been acting unusually in the first instance for it to have gained the observer's attention.
Taking all of this into consideration, we could be conditioned and say that it was a young and inexperienced, short-sighted or hungry raven, but maybe, just maybe, this was one which knew that it was time to die and knew that getting hit by a big beastly car was a quick way to go.  After all, a bird can hardly end its life by jumping off a high-rise building!
The accuracy of the observation is the key.  Like the case of the dog in the night, it hinges on how the raven reacted in the final instant before the car bore down on it.  If there was  no last hurried flapping of wings, then it knew what it was doing.  If there was, then it was all just a bad mistake.
Maurits Zwankhuizen

From: m("","peterormay");" target="_blank" href="">
CC: ; ;
Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2014 17:08:26 +1100
Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] Suicide?
I think the raven just got momentarily distracted by a tasty morsel or something else.
A friend of mine told me she saw a Kookaburra pounce on a Willie Wagtail that had been harassing it for years. The Wiilie dropped down onto the ground for a tasty morsel and the kooka dropped down straight after it, took it back up onto a branch, pounded it against the branch and swallowed it. Was the Willie tired of living? I don’t think so.
From: John Brown [
Sent: Sunday, 30 March 2014 5:15 PM
To: muriel story
Cc: Brian Thorp; COG-L
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Suicide?
While quite intelligent, Birds are a bit far down the evolutionary tree to have the brain structures required for the kind of emotions, self-reflection and world view associated with the kind of self-planned suicides that humans sometimes demonstrate. At the level of birds we have a range of associative learning styles, from trial and error, associative and (in bigger birds at least) imitation. This bird appears to have taken the Avian Darwin Award for this year, bring an end to whatever association had developed in its neural network which initiated this particular action. Other birds which use walking out into traffic as a way of successfully cracking nuts are clearly on a more adaptive evolutionary track! 
Sounds quite significant behaviour considering a pub out Yanco way had a standing prize of a slab of ale for anyone who ran over what all would call a Crow. I understand the prize has never been claimed.
My daughter-in-law told me of a strange incident last week in a busy part of Civic.

There was a raven standing close to the side of the road who spent about five minutes carefully and intently watching every car go by.
Eventually it walked calmly out just as a car came up, timing it such that the driver could not avoid killing it.

Does anyone have any likely explanation?

Thanks, Brian

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