The Hunter trilogy is about wolves, but ravens often hang around wolves, help them find food, and sometimes even join wolves in play, and thus it is a good idea to understand ravens a little. The following descriptions of ravens come from the notes I took over the last few years. When some notes contradicted each other, I used the notes I thought were most accurate. Any factual errors are mine and mine alone.
Ravens are considered one of the most intelligent species of bird. They have demonstrated unusual problem-solving skills in laboratory experiments. The common raven, Corvus corax, is usually completely black, from feathers to beak to legs and feet. Ravens are usually two to three feet long, with a wingspan that could be up to five feet. Ravens are the largest bird in the crow family, usually twice the weight of the common crow. They have been known to live forty years in the wild and seventy in captivity, with one undocumented story of a raven living over a hundred years.
Ravens are omnivorous, eating meat as well as fruits and seeds. They hunt small animals such as lizards, insects and mice, but also scavenge for food, including eating road kill, eating at human landfills, and eating the leftovers of the kills of wolves. They sometimes save food in hidden caches, and sometimes steal from the caches of other animals, including other ravens.
Ravens live in the northern hemisphere, particularly in the northern territories of North America, as well as the western states of the United States and into Mexico. They tend to congregate and follow human populations, sometimes even living in cities and towns. The common raven can live in almost any climate, from forest to desert, and have been reported to be seen in the Himalayas.
Common ravens have roughly around thirty different vocalizations of their own, but also are capable of mimicking other birds or animals, including wolves and coyotes. Ravens in captivity have been known to mimic human speech better than some parrots.
Ravens have one of the largest brains of any bird. They have unusual problem solving skills. One experiment involved hanging a piece of meat on a string from a stick where the raven could not reach it from the floor or from the stick. The raven demonstrated unusual logic by perching on the stick, pulling up the string, and looping the string under its foot while grabbing another length of string and pulling it up until it had the meat. At times, ravens have surpassed chimpanzees in intelligent tests.
Ravens have an unusual relationship with wolves. Though wolves often act annoyed by the presence of ravens, ravens sometimes lead them to prey or to dead animals. Ravens seem to know when a wolf makes a kill or tears into the thick skin of a dead animal, it opens the opportunity to eat the leftovers.
Ravens are considered good tricksters and pranksters. They steal from human campers and hikers, often opening unattended backpacks or tents to steal food or even shiny objects that they, ravens, like to collect and hide. Ravens have been known to perch on the roofs of buildings and watch for opportunities to shove snow off the roof onto unsuspecting human victims.
Ravens like to tease wolves, sometimes snatching meat from them and encouraging them to chase them. Ravens will sometimes bite their tails just to start a game with the wolf. Ravens have even been known to play with wolf cubs.