Ravens seen to ‘kiss & make up’ after conflict; first bird observed to do so

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Corvus corax. Photo by flickr user Blake Matheson. All rights revert to originator.
Corvus corax. Photo by flickr user Blake Matheson. All rights revert to originator.

More news of interest fromt the world of corvids. Corvus corax has been shown to engage in periods of close social contact including preening, ‘snuggling,’ & beak-touching after a fight. Though this behavior has been widely documented in mammals but especially in primates, it has never before been documented in birds.

One need only have taken a walk in the Pacific Northwest to know corvids like to pal around. One need only have been awakened at 6AM by one of their squabbles to know they don’t like to pal around too much. They are not so different from modern humans in juggling these seemingly contradictory urges, or the ways they ‘mend fences’.

Monitoring a group of seven captive ravens (Corvus corax), Dr Orlaith Fraser of the University of Vienna and colleague Thomas Bugnyar found that pairs of birds were likely to be more friendly to each other if they had fought each other in the previous 10 minutes.

“It wasn’t just standard friendly behaviour,” Dr Fraser told the New Scientist.

“Rather the ravens sat touching each other, and sometimes touched their beaks together or preened each other.

“Ravens are not tactile like primates, so sitting in contact is a strong social signal.”

Plenty of primates and other mammals reconcile after a conflict, but previously no birds were known to do so, she claimed.

Though the story offers no indication gender played a role in Dr. Fraser’s research, in my mind’s eye I see Papa Raven sweep Mama Raven up into his wings and say “Baby, you’re the greatest!”

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