Camelot International > Tower of London

To the majority of visitors to the Tower of London the resident ravens appear to be just oversized black birds similar in appearance to the common crow. In many ways that is what they are but to dismiss them merely as being such would be almost the same as passing off a Golden Retriever dog as being a larger version of say, a King Charles Spaniel.

In reality, ravens are the large relatives of the crow in the genus Corvus line and as with other members of the crow family, the ravens diet consists mainly of carrion and dead flesh. They are particularly clever in many ways especially when it comes to meal times. One uniquely clever way or should I say trick is that once they have been given food they each make their own larder. They do this by digging small holes in the ground and then filling them up with meat. After a short while they take all the pieces of meat out and replace them with small stones and pebbles. You can imagine the feelings of the crows watching from the trees above. They see the ravens put the meat in but obviously don't realise the changeover until they swoop down to steal the ravens food and all they find for their trouble is stones.

The ravens start to build their nests during the early part of the month of February and this is also the time when they try to expand their territories As a result of this the birds become restless and start to fight so the Ravenmaster then has the extra work in having to keep a permanent watch on them. Of course, the ravens, not being able to expand in the vicinity of the Tower have to be to be kept from injuring themselves, plus there is the fear that these large powerful birds may decide to have some of the tower's guests over for dinner, literally (only joking, of course). Joking aside, the ravens only respond to the Ravenmaster and if they were provoked or even approached by anyone else they are likely to attack. Well, the safest solution during this time of year for all concerned is for the breeding pairs of ravens to be locked up out of harms way which is for a period of around two months.

Within their natural wild habitat the ravens, being able to expand their territory would gather sticks and build an ugly and uncomfortable looking nest. If one can get close enough to look inside though, it can be seen that the well of the nests interior has been carefully lined with moss, flesh and other soft substances. Found at the bottom of this well, or cup is the bed that the female will lay her eggs. This is done one every two days over a period of around ten days usually totalling a clutch of five eggs. Laid at the beginning of March the eggs hatch during the early part of April after going through an approximate ten day cycle. In the wild, after about three to four weeks the young ravens, on a signal from their father leave the nest but are still dependant upon their parents to provide them with food. Presumably, if the baby ravens do not leave the nest this is seen as a sign of weakness and any of the young who, for what ever reason refuse to leave the nest are immediately killed by their parents. Suffice to say, this does not happen at the Tower of London as the Ravenmaster will lovingly take the fledglings into his home and hand rear them over a period of about six weeks into being healthy young adults. After that time they will be sent to other parts of the country to be quickly called upon should anything happen to any of the birds at the Tower.

Since the time of the second world war there have always been six ravens at the Tower plus two auxiliaries and they live in nesting boxes situated in the Tower grounds near the Wakefield Tower. The ravens can be seen at four territories within the Tower of London which are.

Tower Green: The site of the executioners block. The ravens would have witnessed the executions of Ann Bolyne, Walter Raleigh and Thomas More to name but a few.

Tower Steps: The construction of the White Tower, built at the time of William the Conqueror in 1078 would have possibly been observed by the ravens.

Roman Wall: This is the foundation and remains of the old Londinium Roman wall.

Coldharbour: The site of an early entrance to the Tower.

The birds can be easily identified by their coloured leg-rings and the names of the present batch (or unkindness) are as follows.

Leg-ring colour



Where from


Yellow Larry female Isle of Anglesey 1973
White Hardey male Dorset 1981
Dark Blue Cedric male Lincolnshire 1987
Light Blue Gwylum male Welsh Mountain Zoo 1988
Dark Green Munin 11 female North Uist (Scotland) 1995
Red Hugine 11 female North Uist (Scotland) 1995
Orange Odin male Hampshire 1995
Light Green Thor male Hampshire 1995

Footnote: The official term of reference for a flock of ravens is an "unkindness" dating back to the ancient use of the word, which meant "unnatural conduct". The raven has always been regarded as a bird of evil and the word was applied in the mid-15th century. It can be found in a list of "proper terms" in the Book of St Albans, dated 1486.

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