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Stone the crows! It's a raven invasion!!


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Raven invasion: Birds flock back to England after a century in exile



By David Derbyshire

Last updated at 1:56 AM on 07th April 2010



For a hundred years it was confined to the moors and lonely hillsides of Britain.

But now, the raven's exile from lowland England has come to an end.

According to a study, the UK's largest crow is spreading across the countryside and returning to haunts it last called home in Victorian times.


article-0-090603B6000005DC-520_468x286.jpg Spreading their wings: Ravens are returning to lowland England after a hiatus of decades


In just 20 years it has crossed most of Britain and has now been spotted in East Anglia.

For most of the 20th century, ravens were rarely seen in the English lowlands after Victorian gamekeepers drove them into the hills and moorlands of Wales, Scotland, the West Country and the Lake District.



With the exception of the tame ravens in the Tower of London, the giant birds were rarely seen outside Britain's 'Celtic Fringe'.

However, over the past two decades - with the decline of gamekeepers and the increased availability of road-kill as food for the birds - they began to spread east from the Welsh borders into the Midlands.

By the mid-1990s they had reached Cheshire, Worcestershire, Wiltshire and Derbyshire. By 2005 they had reached Sussex.

And last summer, for the first time in more than 100 years, a pair of ravens nested on the white cliffs of Dover to raise two chicks.

The return of the raven has been hailed as one of the great wildlife successes of the past 50 years.

Dawn Balmer, of the British Trust for Ornithology which has charted their return, said: 'Bird watchers will be thrilled to see them recolonising central England and pushing into the South East.'

Ravens traditionally nest in cliffs, but in recent years have been spotted building their homes in trees and even electricity pylons.

There are around 13,000 breeding pairs in Britain. They live for around 15 years in the wild. However, the tame ravens in the Tower of London have lived for up to 40 years.

Paul Stancliffe, also of the trust, added: 'They are tremendous birds. They have this magnificent deep croak which is very distinctive.

'If you think you have seen one flying overhead you can check by looking at their tail which has a distinctive diamond shape.

'It seems they are now recolonising their former ranges - places where they haven't been since the 18th and 19th centuries. They started to come back into England's lowlands a couple of decades ago and they are now spreading at quite a rapid rate.'

Like their cousin the crow, ravens feed on animals killed on the roads.

They also eat small mammals, birds, berries and grains.

Mr Stancliffe said the birds were shy around people.

'Although they might change as they continue to spread eastwards,' he added.

Ravens tend to pair for life. They have the largest brains of any bird species and are excellent mimics.

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