Do you dream of keeping a raven as a pet?
Icons of Goth and pagan culture, these beautiful animals have been long appreciated as embodiments of darkness and despair.
But it’s not just a fascination with the macabre that makes ravens desirable pets. Along with the other birds in the crow family, they are some of the most intelligent animals on the planet.
The unpredictable, even antic behavior of ravens makes them intriguing animal companions.
They can even learn to imitate human speech like parrots and parakeets, but you will never hear your raven say “Polly wants a cracker.”
Why doesn’t everybody have a raven?
As we will cover in a lot more detail a little later in this article, ravens aren’t for everybody. Many people find them to be uniquely challenging to keep as pets.
But if you live in the United States or Canada, there are legal barriers to keeping a raven at all.
Fortunately for fans of ravens, there are legal loopholes in both American and Canadian migratory bird laws.
As a result, ravens aren’t easy to come by.
In the US, the Migratory Bird Act of 1916 bans Americans, except for wildlife rehabilitation specialists, from owning any migratory bird that is native to the United States.
In Canada, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 places similar restrictions on Canadians.
It’s a common misunderstanding that ravens, like falcons, were imported to North America from Europe and the Middle East.
Actually, the Common Raven is a native species in both the United States and Canada. It’s likely that the ancestors of American birds crossed the Bering Land Bridge from Siberia to Alaska thousands of years ago.
Biologists have discovered that ravens living in modern-day California have the same DNA as ravens discovered in melting polar ice.
As a result, US and Canadian law applies to common ravens.
It’s illegal to own any raven of a species that lives in the wild in North America or even passes through North America as it migrates.
This law ensures that no one will rob a raven’s nest of its chicks to raise and sell them as novelty pets. (Attempting to steal hatchlings out of a raven’s nest would be a very bad idea regardless of the law.)
However, it is not illegal to own ravens of species that aren’t native to North America and don’t migrate here.
It’s legal to own a White-Necked Raven, which is native to Africa.
Some breeders sell White-Necked Ravens and Pied Crows, which are closely related to the African bird, as well as crosses between the two species.
What’s Different About a White-Necked Raven?
The first thing you will probably notice about a White-Necked Raven is that it has white feathers on its neck.
The rest of its plumage is mostly black, but there are purple highlights on the throat, neck, and breast.
Another thing you will notice right away about a White-Necked Raven, compared to a Common Raven, is that it has a noticeably shorter tail.
A White-Necked Raven’s body length is about 20 to 22 inches (50 to 54 cm). A Common Raven’s body length is between 21 and 26 inches (54 and 67 cm).
White-Necked Ravens also have a shorter wingspan. A White Necked Raven’s wings can stretch out to 29-1/2 to 34 inches ( 75 to 86 cm).
A Common Raven’s wingspan is 45 to 51 inches (115 to 150 cm).
White-Necked Ravens will weigh 1 pound 11 ounces to 1 pound 14 ounces (760 to 865) grams. Common Ravens often weigh as much as 2 pounds 11 ounces (1230 grams)/
The two kinds of ravens have different beaks. White-Necked Ravens have arched, white beaks. Common Ravens have bill-like black beaks.
All ravens can talk. A White-Necked Raven, some owners say, sounds like a Common Raven with a sore throat.
White-Necked Ravens have a huskier sound than their larger cousins. They can croak like Common Ravens, but their croak sounds closer to a whisper compared to a Common Rave.
It’s Legal and Ethical to Own a White-Necked Raven
Because white-necked ravens live in the wild in the mountains of southeastern Africa (Republic of South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania), and they never migrate to the US or Canada, it’s legal to keep them as pets in the United States.
It’s no longer legal to transport White-Necked Ravens out of Africa, so you can be sure your bird was raised in the country where you are buying it, either the US or Canada.
There aren’t as many breeders of White-Necked Ravens and Pied Crows as there are other kinds of birds, like parakeets.
As a result, you will have to make a considerable investment in your pet. White-Necked Ravens, depending on demand, cost $2,000 to $7,000.
That doesn’t include overnight shipping to your home, or your trip to the breeder to pick up your raven, as you prefer.
But read on to decide whether owning a pet raven is really for you.
Tips of Keeping Ravens from the Raven Master
No one knows more about keeping ravens than the British royal family’s official raven master.
Christopher Skaife’s official title is Yeoman Warder of the Queen’s Palace and Fortress, Tower of London, Member of the Sovereign’s Body Guard of Yeomen Extraordinary.
He is the “raven master” for the British royal family. In his book The Ravenmaster, Skaife gives the world a glimpse into his 30 years of caring for the royal birds.
He recounts feeding these magnificent birds raw meat in countless ways and ensuring that these brilliant birds are happy, healthy, and fascinating for the four million tourists who flock to the Tower of London every year.
Skaife describes his job as helping people understand ravens.
He keeps ravens calm around children, tourists, tour guides, VIPs, historians, amateur bird lovers, professional ornithologists, and every other visitor to the Tower of London.
Skaife estimates that he is photographed with ravens at the Tower of London 300 to 400 times a day, every day.
He has had to deal with ravens attacking people, people attacking ravens, ravens attacking each other, ravens stealing wallets and passports and smartphones, snatched food, biohazards, injury, tragedy, and death.
Ravens don’t make affectionate pets
Skaife has fallen off the side of the Tower while trying to help a bird. He has put himself in embarrassing situations to help the ravens.
He notes that the ravens aren’t exactly grateful, He says (paraphrased):
“The ravens are not my pets. I protect and feed them, but they will not do what I tell them to do. They do not do tricks.
They will not ride unicycles. They do not speak Latin. The Tower ravens are big, unpredictable creatures that can fly away anytime they like.”
Skaife makes it clear that Common Ravens don’t want you to keep them as pets.
But even if you aren’t ready to keep a raven of any kind as a pet, you can have an interesting life with these highly intelligent, challenging birds.
Bringing Ravens to Your Property
Christopher Skaife has his job as the royal raven master for a very specific reason: British legend.
The historical story goes that if the ravens were ever to abandon the Tower of London, it will crumble, and great tragedy will befall the United Kingdom.
Accordingly, Queen Elizabeth appointed a raven master to maintain the birds and protect the Kingdom.
However, the first queen to appoint a raven master wasn’t Queen Elizabeth I. It was Queen Elizabeth II, in 1968.
The idea that ravens need someone to keep them is a relatively modern invention. Skaife is only the sixth raven master since the Queen created the position.
He is the longest-serving raven master and has the most experience in making sure ravens are always at the Tower to delight the tourists.
Of course, you don’t need ravens to keep your tower from crashing down. (Or maybe you do. We’re not experts on that.) But you can use Skaife’s methods to attract passing ravens to make your property their home?
Skaife has a sure-fire method of attracting ravens to make sure they show up to entertain a crowd:
Soak dog biscuits in blood.
All you have to do to prepare this irresistible treat for ravens is to buy a bag of dog biscuits, preferably bone-shape, get the butcher to sell you a container of blood, and soak the biscuits in the blood for several hours. Soaking them longer is better.
Toss the bloody dog biscuits on the grounds where you see ravens fly overhead, and soon you will have a collection of ravens and crows having a picnic.
Bloody dog food isn’t the only irresistible treat for ravens.
They also enjoy thawed, previously frozen mice. You can get frozen mice from a pet supply store that specializes in reptiles.
Let the mice thaw, and then leave them on your grounds. Ravens that find them will rip out their guts with their beaks first, and then eat everything except the skin and fur.
Ravens will also feast on raw chicken parts (you don’t have to buy expensive chicken parts), lamb hearts, liver, kidney, live mice, day-old chicks, and rabbits, preferably with their fur still on.
Ravens also enjoy peanuts in the shell, unsalted, potato chips, and tortilla chips (not the salsa).
Some fans of feeding ravens comment that their time ravens has turned them into vegetarians. You probably don’t want to watch ravens feeding too close to your own mealtime.
But ravens will keep coming back to the places where they are fed.
Keeping a raven as a pet requires the same kinds of feeding activities as supporting ravens in the wild that are searching for food.
You can always learn the art of raven keeping by making your property a welcome home for them.
Still Want a Raven as a Pet?
Here are some ideas that allow you to keep a raven as a pet, legally, with maximum support from your community:
- Train a raven to be a service animal. Daniel Walthers of the Winding Woods Ranch near Commerce, Georgia is training ravens to help rehabilitate veterans who have PTSD.
- Nurse a sick raven back to health. Common ravens are susceptible to West Nile Virus. You can adopt a recovering bird at a wildlife rescue center and help it return to the wild healthy and virus-free.
- Give someone else’s pet raven a new home. You could re-home a White-Necked Raven left at an animal shelter who proved to be too much of a challenge for its owners. We’re very sure any shelter would welcome willing adopters of abandoned ravens.
With a little imagination and some online searches, you can find a raven that needs you to give it a home.
You would still be getting a high-maintenance, expensive pet, but you wouldn’t have to spend $2,000 to $7,000 to buy the bird.
Ravens are challenging pets, but their beauty and amazing intelligence make them worth the effort.
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