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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts and legends about – the raven. Edgar Allen Poe’s poem featuring this bird was published 155 years ago.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. One hundred and fifty-five years ago, Edgar Allen Poe published "The Raven," his poem in which a dark and foreboding bird answers, "Nevermore," to questions about the afterlife. Because of their black feathers and habit of scavenging off carrion, ravens, and their smaller cousins crows, have been seen by many cultures as a link to the world of the dead. They have also been thought to possess secret knowledge. Crow augury has been practiced since Roman times. The old rhyme, "One for sorrow, two for joy," counted crows to predict the future.

Other legends emphasize the cleverness and curiosity of crows and ravens. The Norse war god Odin had a pair of ravens for scouts. He named them Thought and Memory. In the present-day, crows and ravens continue to prosper because, like humans, they can adapt to a variety of habitats. In fact, crows have adapted so successfully to farms and cities that some states have established crow hunting seasons. Hunters need to be wary, though, of crows' tendency to band together and mob their attacker, a tactic they use against hawks and other natural predators. Several years ago, crows chased a coyote through the streets of Seattle into a federal office building. The coyote ended up trapped in an elevator. Quoth the raven, "Seventh floor." Sorry, Mr. Poe. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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