On The Wild Side: Thanks and praise for those helping to protect our wildlife

Photo above shows the nest of ravens at a Lowe’s store. Inset photo, shows the juvenile raven named ‘Simon’ who columnist Ann Brokelman helped to rescue and bring to the Toronto Wildlife Centre for treatment. Photos by Ann Brokelman.


I’ve noticed, over the years, that a lot of people don’t realize that ravens are … common… in southern Ontario and that they make a fascinating bird watching.
Often mistaken for, and subsequently written off as, their smaller crow cousins, Ravens are one of the most intelligent birds in the world and exhibit a wide array of interesting behaviours.

Just a few weeks ago, my friend Lee called to tell me about a raven family that had nested in the roof of a Lowe’s.

This sighting became an amazing opportunity for me to watch a pair of adult Common Ravens, their nesting habits, and the growth, branching, and fledging of their chicks.

More importantly, I loved how the employees at the nesting location not only coexisted with the ravens but went out of their way to make sure the birds were safe and undisturbed. So often when people and businesses have encounters with urban wildlife, they see the animals as a nuisance. In this case, though, the store staff cared about the family of ravens.

The next part of this story was passed on to me by my friend Lee Ellis:

“When I went to check them out, I saw that their nest was under the roof, high up, but located somewhat precariously over a fair bit of foot and auto traffic. I was thrilled, though, to see two adults and five healthy, and already mobile looking, babies. The chicks grew quickly, since enough food was being brought in by the parents, and their nest, also quickly, became too small and started to fall apart. While young chicks would normally branch out from the nest, onto actual branches, the Lowe’s store was quite lacking in this department. I knew, from experience, that the chicks were at a much greater risk of falling in this situation. Shortly after this, another chick fell, though staff members were able to keep this one safe from traffic, long enough for a volunteer from the Toronto Wildlife Centre to come get it. After a few days, the uninjured bird was successfully returned to the nest.

“How did the staff respond? Amazingly! They taped off a space directly below the nest so that vehicles would have to drive around the area. Was this inconvenient to the drivers? I’m sure it was. But it shouldn’t have been a detour of more than a few metres. Every cash register also had the Toronto Wildlife Centre’s phone number, as well as those of a few volunteers, in case there was another incident. This is how we should coexist with nature. The store adopted, cared for, and protected this avian family.

Andrea Stanley, told me about how the store employees had names for each of the ravens: “Herbert is the male adult. He has an unusual call, and a small white spec on his back. Heidi is Herbert’s mate. She started to come around in February. We are unsure of the sex of the babies, but we named them anyway! Simon is the baby that went to the Toronto Wildlife Centre. Richard is the smallest one and the last to leave the nest. Then, finally, there is Timothy and Ava.”

Back to my thoughts on this story:

The concern from this store has been incredible. They were there to support the return of Simon, and the Toronto Wildlife Centre did an amazing job, (as always), of putting the juvenile back into the nest. I was there to see this happen, and was amazed as baby Simon, moments after going back on the pipes, started to scream and was suddenly airborne, fledging and flying right before our eyes. One of the adults was right by his side and made sure he landed at the top of the building and stayed with him thereafter.

Did you know that raven’s have a strong memory? I’d always heard that but hadn’t experienced it until this event. I was the volunteer from the TWC to pick up baby Simon, and the adults certainly noticed that I was the one to take their chick away. Every time I came back to the store, after that moment, one of the adults has followed me, swooped at me from behind, and constantly vocalized at me until I’ve backed away. I tried to wear a different coat one day, thinking I could fool them, but nope: as soon as I arrived and got out of my car, one of them swooped down, got in my face, and croaked at me until I left! I had to limit my return visits to not upset them. It’s too bad they don’t remember I was there to help with the re-nesting process!

I am so proud and honoured to have met the staff at Lowe’s. You are incredible and thank you for protecting our wildlife!

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