Behold….a talking raven!


First, if you are up at the Edinburgh Festival this August, the Edinburgh Skeptics have just announced a great line-up of speakers for their Fringe of Reason series (details here). They have a different speaker every day and its free! Very happy to say that Paranormality is sponsoring the event.

Second, if you have 2 mins spare, it would be great if you could take part in my new fun survey – details here.

Finally, @StuartJRitchie sent me a video that appears to show a talking raven. I find it very very creepy….

Anyone know anything about it? Is it genuine? Why is the raven so well behaved? Oh, and there will be big news on the blog tomorrow.

Update: I originally called the raven a crow. As a result I had four emails pointing out the error, three from ravens and one from a crow. The raven has now been correctly identified as a raven.




44 comments on “Behold….a talking raven!

  1. anaglyph says:

    The poem wouldn’t have had quite the same frisson had the line been ‘Quoth the raven: ‘Wukka wukka”

    My money is on it being fake.

  2. seePyou says:

    not a crow guys…

  3. Ken says:

    Years ago my dad told me of a friend of his who taught a crow how to talk. He gave the crow to a zoo. When he returned to see it a couple years later, the crow said “where the hell have you been!”

    … Of course I never really believed it.

    Oh, and that is not a crow in the video, it’s a raven.

  4. knobody says:

    corvids have been reported to be able to learn to talk on many occasions. i once read an article about a wild raven in alaska that would talk to skiiers at the ski lodge that was part of his territory. i would guess that this bird was raised in captivity or now lives in captivity due to injury. also claims that corvids can learn to talk.

  5. jP says:

    Corvids are crazy smart, ravens especially so. I don’t see any reason to doubt this. (Plenty of other talking raven clips out there).

    And, why so well behaved? Someone has spent a long time patiently teaching this raven a couple of key raven phrases. It on follows the bird would have learned that people feed it for doing a good job.

    • Gus Snarp says:

      This pretty much sums up my thoughts. Corvids are right up there with the psittacidae (that’s parrots, mostly) in intelligence, maybe higher. The studies of their tool use and creation are pretty amazing. Mimicry is not unheard of, and may be the source of the famous poem in the first place. The voice in that particular video sounds amazingly human, but that doesn’t mean it’s fake. There’s every reason to assume it’s real, because it simply isn’t at all out of line with what we know about Corvids.

  6. Steve Jones says:

    Members of the Corvidae family (Ravens, Crows and so on) are well known to exhibit the ability to imitate the human voice at times, especially if raised in captivity. Some members can also be readily tamed. I think crows might be harder, but this bird is a raven. Quite a few species of birds can mimic the human voice (and some other sounds). Starlings (especially myna birds) and parrots, of course.

    I can’t say for sure that it is a genuine video, but it looks like it to me.

  7. MickeyD says:

    Next scene: Cat catches raven and it shouting: let me go you bad puddy tat!

  8. gavin c says:

    Its not a raven.cant remember the name of it but it is a domesticated breed of talking granda had one which spoke chinese!

    • Steve Jones says:

      You will almost certainly be thinking of a myna bird (my grandmother had one too). They were commonly kept as talking birds up until about the 1970s. However, that’s a completely different family (related to the starling, but much larger) whilst this bird is a member of the corvids.

  9. jiva says:

    It may be real but sounds like an overlay. Still, what the hell with the camera! Keep it still for more than half a second. Almost impossible to watch due to the shake and movement.

  10. Tsuyoiko says:

    I think it’s pretty well known that ravens can “talk”. I have adopted ravens at a zoo; when I spoke to the keeper there, she said they have one of the offspring of those ravens that they’re training to say a few words. He can call his main keeper by name, apparently.

  11. Raeth says:

    Can a raven really have such a deep male voice?

    • Raeth says:

      From the other videos, I can hear the sound is a lot more robotic, like a tape-recorder, so I think it’s real.

    • Steve Jones says:

      Birds don’t vocalise in the way humans do. Some species can mimic all sorts of sounds such as alarm clocks, chain saws. Here’s a lyre bird echoing sounds of the forest, including some very human-created ones

  12. florayg says:

    That’s surely a raven not a crow? I never saw a crow bigger than a cat. And yes, many ravens can talk. I don’t know about crows though

  13. Jeremy says:

    The crow/raven debate is silly. They both belong to the same genus, and there is no phylogenetic distinction between them. At best it’s just a description of their down feathers, but as far as you can see without examining a dead one, there is nothing to discern between crows and ravens – only between specific species of the Corvus genus, just as you can determine, for example in Australia between a Forest Raven and an Australian Raven.

  14. Arno says:

    Corvids can be tamed, though some individuals are easier than others. Just a quick search on YouTube shows a nice list of various people who show off their pet corvid. And yes, ravens can mimic human voices to a degree. It is interesting that the animal actually says “Say Nevermore”, which is probably what his owner said, instead of “Nevermore”. It is kinda like the joke where kids are supposed to “Say sorry Johnny” and respond with that exact same phrase. The raven is making the exact same mistake, which adds to the realism. So yeah, I’d say that this is 99% certainly real.

  15. Nadia says:

    What’s it saying?

    • Berber Anna says:

      ‘Say nevermore’ (a reference to the Raven in Poe’s poem of that name), ‘Wakka wakka’ and ‘kerploink’ (a computer sound).

  16. Berber Anna says:

    Genuine. As others have said, corvids are good at mimicking sounds. It’s also doing the ‘friend online’ sound of an instant messenger (I think it was MSN, haven’t used those things in a while). I kind of hoped it would meow back at the cat!

  17. jackjak says:

    i take a look at The encyclopedia of Bird
    and it tell that Raven can mimic human voice
    This kind of bird is a quick thinker as well. : )
    in my opinion this vid could be a real one
    however ,it sound like a voice from a talking-Dict

  18. Jo H says:

    It looks unlikely, but I’m inclined to believe it. For many years our village was home to a rather eccentric talking rook called Jacko. He was enough of a celebrity to have this obituary written in the local paper:

    Jacko might not have had the literary aspirations of this Raven, but he certainly talked in a very human sounding voice.

  19. Stu says:

    The Raven is real, the cat is fake, and Fozzy Bear is doing the camera work. “Wocka, wocka, wocka”

  20. Brian Wilson says:

    anyone notice that you never actually see the birds feet move?

    • Berber Anna says:

      You mean apart from where it walks down the windowsill, and you then see it actually has put one foot on the frame of the window? Its feet were lined up at first, and later one of them is further back than the other. Okay, so you don’t see the actual movement, but that would take a lot of unnecessary cuts if it wasn’t real.

    • Brian Wilson says:

      wouldn’t take any more cuts it would just take someone moving it while the camera wasn’t showing it’s feet. But i am convinced it’s real now.

  21. Brian Wilson says:

    No living thing moves like that. Also, ravens don’t sound like Speak And Spells. This is obviously animatronic. The bird’s beak opens and shuts the way a human’s mouth would if they were speaking. Since birds don’t have lips the articulation comes from inside. There are lots of videos of talking ravens on YouTube. Watch some of these and then watch this one again.

    • Berber Anna says:

      No, it doesn’t. It does the whole ‘say nevermore’ thing with its mouth open, while a human would move their mouth during the phrase. The ravens in the clips you linked (especially the last one) randomly (or perhaps inspired by their owners) open and shut their beaks during phrases as well, by the way.

    • Steve Jones says:

      Ah so the really clever thing is that we have the only fake talking raven video among dozens of real ones. A dastardly plot by a brilliant, but deranged genius planning on fooling the world through his cunning plan. I see it now.

      Of curse, there are those other videos he posted on the same channel showing he raven with his dog and cat. But then maybe they are evil animatronic creations too…

    • Brian Wilson says:

      Ah, checked out the other videos. Definitely a real bird. But like i said, I found it weird that the only time the bird moved up and down the window sill where when it’s feet couldn’t be seen.

  22. whitenoiseofeverydaylife says:

    Great footage of the Lyrebird posted by Steve Jones above but the unseen footage is better

  23. jus says:

    I think the raven is real (although it looks strangely robotic) but the voice is totally added by sound editing. Unless someone trained him, which is a possibility.

    • Berber Anna says:

      Someone did indeed train him. The guy who posted this has lots more vids of his raven (saying things like ‘who’s a good boy’ and ‘I wanna cookie’) on his youtube channel.

  24. Stephen Williamson says:

    A bit late to the party, but I wanted to throw in my two cents. I lived in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory for about ten years, where there are a lot of ravens who are in constant contact with humans. They are mimics, and it’s amazing the sorts of sounds they will imitate. I’ve heard one imitate the beeping of a truck’s back-up warning. I’ve heard one imitate the chirping of a car alarm being set. I’ve even heard a captive one say “hello” and a string of expletives.

  25. Peter Leeson says:

    Very impressed at the level of nerdiness of your reader-pool…

  26. Illianna says:

    My dad had a friend who had a pet raven. He used to beat my dad at racing video games.

  27. […] Behold….a talking raven! « Richard WisemanJun 30, 2011 … Years ago my dad told me of a friend of his who taught a crow how to talk. … When he returned to see it a couple years later, the crow said … […]

  28. Our rook (“corbeau freux” = corvus frugilegus) is nine years old and definitely tries to talk. Had we known of this talent we would have done the little cut under the tongue (that has been reported for centuries) which allows their vocalising to be more agile: but doing this to an adult bird seems quite unjustifiably traumatic. In any case: the ancient Romans reported that rooks were good talkers … and fond of wine. Ours is also fond of black coffee!!

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