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Have you heard the legend of the ravens at the Tower of London?  If the ravens ever leave, the tower will crumble to dust and great tragedy will befall the people of England.

 

What is a raven?

Basically, a raven is a large black bird.  They are in the same class as crows (the Corvus class), another common large black bird that most people have probably seen hanging around the neighborhood.  Related yes. Identical no.

 

black bird perched on top of a drive in ordering menu board
You see them around the neighborhood and sometimes you even see them at the local Sonic!
(I’m not sure if this is actually a crow or not but it looks kind of like one so I’m putting it in!)

 

How are ravens different than crows?

  • Ravens have a larger, heavier black beak.
  • Ravens have shaggier neck feathers.
  • Ravens have a wedge-shaped tail.

 

Here’s a little video to better explain the difference between them…

 

Raven Facts

  • A raven is all black, including the beak.
  • A raven is large – average length is 25 inches and average weight is 2.6 pounds
  • A raven’s lifespan in the wild is up to 21 years
  • Ravens are omnivores
  • Ravens are known for their intelligence and problem-solving abilities
  • Young ravens may live in flocks but mature ravens mate for life.

 

A murder of crows gathers in the bare treetops at sunset
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Sometimes you see only a couple of crows. And sometimes you see an entire murder of crows adorning every branch!

 

Ravens in Culture

Ravens have been part of mythology, folklore, art, and literature across many cultures through time and around the world.  You can check out the wikipedia entry about ravens in art and literature to get an overview of how expansive their appearance and influence have been over the centuries.  For example, Shakespeare mentions the raven more than any other bird in his plays, notably in Macbeth and Othello among others.  Because ravens eat carrion  (aka dead animals), they are often associated with death and bad omens.

 

Famous Ravens

 

Edgar Allen Poe

The raven made famous in Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, The Raven, is probably the most iconic raven for me.  Do you remember how the poem goes?  If not, here it is read by James Earl Jones.

 

Ravenmaster

Remember that legend I mentioned above about the ravens at the Tower of London?  If the ravens ever leave, the tower will crumble to dust and great tragedy will befall the people of England.

Now imagine being the Ravenmaster – the one man in charge of keeping the ravens at the tower.  Sounds like a pretty high-pressure job doesn’t it?

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Strike the Yeoman Warder pose.

A post shared by Chris Skaife (@ravenology1) on

 

Yeoman Warder Christopher Skaife recently wrote a book called The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London which takes us inside the tower gates and behind the white walls to see what it really takes to keep the ravens happy, healthy, and home at the tower.  As you can imagine, this fits perfectly into my day in the life obsession with a nice helping of animal love on the side.  He has written the book to share his love of the ravens but also to attempt to answer the most frequent questions asked by visitors to the tower.

  • Why are there ravens at the tower?
  • Where do the myths about the ravens come from?
  • How does he care for the ravens?
  • What do the ravens eat?
  • Who names the ravens?
  • What happens to the ravens when they die?
  • How and why do the ravens stay at the tower?

 

He introduces us to each of the ravens currently living at the tower, letting us get to know their various personalities as he shares various escapades of these remarkable birds.  The raven roster at time of publication:

  • Munin
  • Merlin/Merlina
  • Erin
  • Rocky
  • Jubilee II
  • Gripp II
  • Harris

 

In Skaife’s own words, “I’m really just an average guy with a greater-than-average amount of luck who has been fortunate enough to have spent a large part of my life with some of the most famous birds in the world as they go about their daily business.”

The most important lesson he has learned? Never, ever underestimate the ravens.

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Merlina

A post shared by Chris Skaife (@ravenology1) on

Merlina is a social media sweetheart and often featured on the author’s Instagram page

 

Cover of Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife displayed on a bookshelf with various other titles
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Have you ever wondered what a day in the life of the Ravenmaster at the Tower of London is like? This book takes us behind closed doors and to the top of the White Tower to find out.

 

Want to hear the author reading his book?  Check out his Instagram account.

 

A visit to the Tower of London

I was fortunate enough to visit the Tower of London last August to see these beautiful birds and the White Tower in person.  I spent several hours wandering the grounds, climbing stone steps, and soaking in the history of the tower.  Even better was seeing this all in living color after reading about it in The Ravenmaster.

Looking at the exterior walls of the Tower of London
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An impressive stone fortress in the heart of London…

 

The White Tower stands at the center of the grounds at the Tower of London
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The White Tower stands at the center of the grounds. You’ll want to read the Ravenmaster book to hear about the time he was swinging from a weathervane atop the tower, attempting to catch an escaped raven!

 

Living quarters for the Tower of London guards are in the outer wall of the tower grounds.
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The tower guards live at the tower itself. Surrounded by tourists all day but soaking up the quiet history after hours.

 

Ravens inside the wire mesh enclosure at the tower of london
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The raven enclosure at the Tower. A couple ravens were inside having a day of rest when I visited.

 

A raven in the grass at the base of the White Tower at the Tower of London
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The ravens are running the show here; they decide when and where to appear for the adoring crowds. Sometimes they pose happily for a picture and sometimes they just steal your snacks!

 

Tourists milling about outside the stone building which houses the crown jewels on display at the Tower of London
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The ravens are pretty cool but do you know what else you can see at the Tower of London? The Crown Jewels! The line is long but inside this building you will see many beautiful sparkly things.

 

Guards in uniform at the Tower of London march in formation
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The next shift of guards is here to take the watch!

 

Sharing is Caring!

Crown jewels and history and legendary ravens await your visit at the Tower of London. Before you go, be sure to read The Ravenmaster by Christopher Skaife to find out the behind-the-scenes details of the Tower ravens and their daily routines and care. Then get right over to the tower and hope you'll be lucky enough to meet Merlina.
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Merlina would like to grow her social following and asks that you pin this story to spread the word of her greatness!

 

Follow me for more!

Where will I go next? Click the picture below to sign up for occasional email updates so you don’t miss a thing!

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Ravens at the Tower via @behindeveryday
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