In addition to being known for their intelligence, members of the Corvid Family – ravens, crows, jays and magpies – are appreciated by birders for their behaviour when confronted with a predator.
Their loud, raucous squawks combined with hopping and jabbing motions generally mean they have spotted an owl or hawk roosting in a tree. They continue their actions until the potential threat has been driven away. If you ever see a flock of corvids concentrating on a certain spot, look for the owl.
I was standing in my kitchen the other evening when out of the corner of my eye I saw a huge bird fly into one of my spruce trees. Whipping over to the window I discovered it was a raven, and it was loud! Just finishing up a phone call, I nearly threw the phone on the floor in my haste to get to my binoculars.
The raven kept up his loud cries and was soon joined by a nosy black-billed magpie who came to see what the fuss was about. And then – nothing.
They left. No owl sighting, no hawk sighting.
I have two possible theories for this behaviour. The first is that the predator was on the side of the tree away from me and the raven chased it off. The second is that the raven was just playing, to see if he could get the corvid fanatic in the house to spend half an hour walking around and around a spruce tree, looking for a bird that wasn’t there. Both are equally likely.