Why Is That Raven Screaming From The Forest?
I often get questions about specific types of crow and raven vocalizations, and one of the most common ones that comes up is when someone says…
“I was out in the woods and I heard this crazy sound, and it sounded kind of like a human being screaming off in the distance. What the heck is this!?”
Very often if this story is coming to me during late spring or early summer, this is actually juvenile Ravens doing a very specific type of behaviour.
It’s a great piece of knowledge to have about crow and raven language.
Especially if you’re interested in interpreting what crows and ravens are actually saying and the meaning of their communication.
My Story About Raven Juveniles
One time when I was a student at Wilderness awareness school… I had a chance to get an up close and personal view of what is actually going on when the ravens make that crazy screaming sound.
There’s a really nice population of Ravens on the land there. They like to hang out in the big Douglas fir mono culture forest next to the School.
It’s this really weird forest that was logged a few years back and then replanted with nothing but Douglas Fir trees as far as the eyes can see.
We would always call it the enchanted forest.
It’s really not what I would call a particularly healthy or diverse forest but it does have Ravens in it.
And in springtime you can hear the juveniles calling out there.
Here’s What It Sounds Like:
This recording from the Macaulay Library is a perfect example of the Juvenile screaming sound I’m talking about.
You’ll notice there are also lots of Blue Jays in the recording giving their instantly recognizable parabolic alarms.
The Ravens in this recording can be identified by their lower pitched and more gruff sounding voices.
The next example is very short, but it features a single juvenile Raven call, so you won’t get it confused with the Jays. This one is a bit quiet so you might need to turn up your speakers and play it a few times.
To me – it really does sound kind of like a human being is basically just screaming their head off every few seconds, and this goes on all day long at certain times of year.
Here’s What It Looks Like:
So one day I was out walking in this “enchanted” Douglas Fir forest.
And I happened to be walking really close to where the Ravens had their home base.
I got to observe what they do when they make that crazy screaming sound.
There was three of them and they were spread out amongst two or three trees in the middle of the forest. They were almost up in the canopy but definitely below the top, so they had lots of cover.
They were maybe three quarters of the way up… and sitting there screaming over and over again.
As I watched and observed I started to notice that every few minutes the parent Ravens would come back to the tree bringing food.
As soon as the young ones would see the parents, they would immediately start screaming and their vocalizations would go a little bit insane for a short period of time.
They’d fly over to where their parents were bringing the food and then they’d eat the food and their parents would leave again.
Then the screaming would calm down a little bit. You could hear they were going back and forth with this intermittent screaming.
And this is very often what people are actually hearing when they notice screaming sounds from out in the middle of a forest all day long.
It’s incredibly common.
And I figured out that just by listening for the rhythm of their screaming and noticing those moments when it gets more intense, and moments when it calms down a little bit…
You can actually tell from an incredibly long distance the exact moment when the parents come back with food and then as they go off again to gather more.
You can hear all of these little feeding dynamics just by listening to the juvenile Raven call.
This is a really great pattern to tune your ears with anytime you want to get a deeper window into the language of Ravens.
And especially if you want to use Raven sounds in order to predict other things happening at a distance in the forest.
Ravens do pay attention to various types of predators.
They’ll let you know by giving alarm calls when there are things like hawks, owls or even things like wolves have an effect on the behaviour of ravens & crows.
I really love helping people get tuned in with how birds communicate different types of messages.
And how those messages really can teach us amazing things about the forest, and about the animals that live in the forest.
It’s one of the most powerful ways to train your awareness and actually open up your radar dish by listening carefully to the language of nature.