Illustration by Mike Langman
1 Forces of darkness
Ravens are the most widely distributed of all corvids, being found throughout the northern hemisphere. They are also amongst the heaviest and longest-lived (more than 20 years) of all passerine birds.
2 Black marks
Black plumage and a taste for carrion make ravens obvious symbols of ill-omen and death. But in Norse mythology, a pair of ravens named Huginn and Muninn travel the world to bring information to the god Odin.
3 Dark history
The legend that the Tower of London will fall should its famous resident ravens desert is probably a romantic Victorian invention. The first record of ravens at the Tower dates back to 1895.
4 Black magic
The sinister appearance of ravens is in stark contrast to their playful and acrobatic courtship flights, which even include spells spent flying upside-down.
5 Cliff Hangers
An old Scottish name for this cliff-nesting species – Corby – still echoes in the names of rocky outcrops in northern Britain, such as Corbie’s Craig in Edinburgh and Corby’s crag in Northumberland.
6 Black market
Non-breeding ravens assemble at communal roosts, where they share information about the whereabouts of food, with knowledgable birds leading the way to animal carcasses in the morning.
7 Jet propulsion
In the Old Testament Book of Genesis, a raven was the first animal to be released by Noah from the Ark. The dove was only the second.