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Re: raven beak clicking

Subject: Re: raven beak clicking
From: Geoff Sample <>
Date: Mon, 29 Sep 2003 10:54:07 +0100
on 26/9/03 1:48 am,  at

> On our morning walk, my dog Grover barked at a big raven that was
> sitting on a streetlight arm in the bus lot. The raven was making a
> silent call, clicking its beak three times click-click-click. Its
> lower jaw was quivering in between the clicks, like it had
> laryngitis. It repeated the "call" five or six times.
> -Dan Dugan

Hi Dan

I can't remember hearing this from a raven but carrion crows here in UK
(corvus corone) regularly give clicking calls. I've been puzzled as to
whether it was vocal (like a glottal stop) or bill-clicking, since I've not
seen the action close enough to tell. I've got half a mind that the call is
often interspersed at intervals with muffled throaty sounds (again rather
quiet). But it may be that I've lumped the 2 classes together in my mind.
Just checked and the 2 sounds run together in the calling series on a
recording I've got.

Showing my ignorance here: are north American ravens the same species as
European? I can't imagine any UK ravens sitting on a lamp-post (the ravens
at the tower of London have their wings clipped, I believe).

I was fortunate enough to get some close recordings of a 10/11 month old
raven in Jan & Feb 2002. The bird had been found with damaged plumage in the
local hills the previous september by the national park warden; he kept it
in a large aviary at his house over winter (with minimal human attention)
then re-introduced to wild subsequently when new feathers grew.

John called me when round about christmas/new year the bird started
indulging in quite prolonged vocal sessions in the morning at first light
'with the weirdest sounds'. On the first recording session, a sunday morning
near the end of Jan, it was raining lightly, but the bird performed well,
with long streams of varied sounds (squeals, purrs, croaks and soft yelps) -
essentially a subsong. I returned 2 weeks later when there were better
conditions, but the bird was in slightly different vocal mode. Not so much
subsong as trying variations on the basic cawing call, sometimes loud, but
mostly a bit more subdued.

It was a real privilege to listen in to a known-age bird finding its voice.
Essentially wild: it got nervous with me within sight of its cage. And
presumably it would have learnt the basics of raven language in its first 6
months or so living free with the rest of the local raven community. But
John never managed to sex the bird with confidence.

I could dig out part of the first session and post an mp3 on the website if
anyone's interested. I may need some brief instructions (does one ftp the

Regards, Geoff.

Geoff Sample

Wildsong Studios
Northumberland, UK

'Music is everywhere if only we had the ears to listen'. John Cage


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