Wildlife expert will deliver presentation on ravens Thursday night at Farmington library

Chadd Drott says corvids are widely misunderstood by humans

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • Drott will deliver a presentation on “The World of the Raven” at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10 at the Farmington Public Library.
  • Admission to the lecture is free.
  • Visit infoway.org or call 505-599-1270 for more information.

FARMINGTON — While many members of the corvid family — ravens, crows and blue jays, among them — commonly are regarded as bullies of the bird world because of their habit of raiding the nests of other species, wildlife expert Chadd Drott has a different perspective on them.

“I would say we are misunderstanding them,” said Drott, who will deliver a presentation on “The World of the Raven” at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10 at the Farmington Public Library, 2101 Farmington Ave. “There’s a lot we haven’t discovered yet or understand about these animals. I don’t think we really know how important they are to us. And, unfortunately, the only way we would ever figure that out is if we lost them as a species.”

Corvids — a family that also includes crows, magpies and other jays — rank as the fifth-most intelligent animal species in the world, Drott said, noting that the birds boast highly advanced social, communication and problem-solving skills that have been measured and recorded in scientific studies.

“They’re quite inquisitive and extremely intelligent,” he said. “There are many, many ways they benefit us as a species.”

While ravens in particular are widely regarded as mere scavengers, since they often can be seen picking over the remains of roadkill, Drott said that is actually one of the primary benefits they offer humans. By disposing of rotting flesh, they help prevent the spread of diseases, and eliminate odors and unsightly remains.

Wildlife expert Chadd Drott will deliver a presentation on ravens, crows and other members of the corvid family Thursday night at the Farmington Public Library.

“They’re also one of the No. 1 consumers of parasites in the world, such as ticks, spiders and even mosquitoes,” he said.

Drott is the owner and operator of Chadd’s Walking with Wildlife, a Colorado-based company that offers guided wildlife tours throughout the Rocky Mountains. He visited Farmington in February to deliver a presentation on Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep at the library, and that presentation went so well, library officials invited him back to talk about corvids.

Drott said corvids are capable of performing and understanding very complex tasks, citing water displacement as an example. Corvids that can’t reach a desired object in a small pool of water often will drop pebbles or other objects in the water until the level becomes high enough for them to access that object.

“That’s something very few animals on the planet are intelligent enough to figure out,” he said.

One of the more remarkable characteristics of corvids is their highly evolved communication system, he said, noting that ravens, crows and magpies have their own dialects and accents the same way humans do.

“If you took an African crow and put it in New Mexico or Colorado, it wouldn’t be able to communicate very well with those (native) birds,” he said, explaining that the situation would in large part mirror the difficulties humans from two different parts of the world would have understanding each other.

“We’ve found they have the largest vocabulary of any birds out there,” he said.

Perhaps the most impressive skill corvids have demonstrated is the ability to adapt to and cohabitate with humans, Drott said. While countless other species have declined or even perished in the face of advancing civilization because of habitat loss, corvids have learned how to use the presence of humans to their advantage in terms of finding and accessing food.

“That’s exactly right,” he said. “It’s amazing how they’ve adapted to urban sprawl. In fact, they don’t just adapt, they thrive.”

Drott’s lecture is free. Visit infoway.org or call 505-599-1270 for more information.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 ormeasterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.