Saturday, December 31, 2011

Raven: A Bird in Need of Rebranding

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Common Raven  Watercolor  Sally Wickham © 2011

While many birds inspire the imaginations of humans, the Common Raven takes a leading role on the dark side.  Citing instances of the raven’s appearances in prominent literature, it is obvious that they have a public relations problem. 

There are several references to ravens in the bible and not all are negative.  However, one example of a bum rap occurs in the Old Testament in one of the most famous stories;  that of Noah’s Ark.  Apparently when the ark landed on Mount Ararat, Noah released a raven that flew “to and fro” and feasted on carrion floating in the flood waters.  According to  the internet,  Noah was so enraged that he forever cursed the raven.  While the corvid’s diet may be disgusting, its adaptability and non-fussy eating habits have helped it to survive and thrive into the 21st century. 

In 1845, Edgar Allan Poe published the now famous dirge titled “The Raven.”  Although it is not a great poem, it is memorable.  Almost every high school student in America has been subjected to its drum beat rhythm and  its downward spiral into insanity.   This poem clearly libels the raven  by describing them as   “…grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous creatures.”

The beliefs of farmers are well-regarded but many farmers mistakenly assume that because ravens pluck a few kernels of corn out of their freshly planted fields,  they are bad birds.  A  rebranding campaign could bring farmers into the fold by educating them to the fact that ravens eat bugs, caterpillars, grubs etc that are destructive to their crops.  They help farms, not hurt them. 

Too numerous to mention are the myths about the trickster raven, its links with witches and the devil,  and its associations with death.      But the important word to remember here is myth.  The truth about ravens is that they consistently demonstrate superior intelligence.  It is a fact that their brains are among the largest of the bird world.  Their intellectual prowess has been noted in the areas of problem solving, imitation, insight and communication skills.  Research has confirmed that they are very smart birds and their success as a species verifies these findings.

Even when spoken of as a group, ravens are referred to as an “unkindness.”  An unkindness it is-- just as it is  demeaning for their corvid kin to be  called “a murder of crows.”  And that brings me to another idea for clearing up this negative image.  Television!

A recent television event featured a broadcast about the  intelligence of crows.     If only the Common Raven could get a boost to their reputation like that, they could  shed their undeserved bad name.  People would enjoy seeing ravens soaring on thermals and watching their young play with the toys that they have made.  

Perhaps a name change is in order.  Many successful corporate rebrandings have taken place in the past decade.   Perhaps the name of RAVEN  may be too closely associated with the word “raving” as in “raving mad.”  Every year several birds are renamed for reasons of genetics or something like that.  Ravens have feathers on their wings that resemble fingers.  Perhaps something that sounds like waving would be a suitable name change.  And there you have it--the campaign slogan--