“The raven is a bird whose historical and literary pre-eminence is unapproached.”
– R. Bosworth Smith, Bird Life and Bird Lore (1905)
San Francisco’s Fort Funston, known as Ft. Fun to locals, is loved by hang glider pilots and off led dog owners alike. Situated in the southwestern corner of San Francisco at the southern end of Ocean Beach, this is one of the only places you can legally hang glide in the city. It is also a place where dogs of all shapes and sizes can stretch their legs and get a vacation from cramped city living.
On this calm, clear November day, the winds off the Pacific were mild and no hang gliders where up in the air. There is one other population that loves Fort Funston and that’s the common raven, the true master of the air.
These ebony birds filled the air, riding the updrafts above the 200 foot cliffs. This consistent updraft is known as the “Funston Shear” by local hang glider pilots. Lying back in the ice plant, watching the largest songbird spin, soars, dive, and invert I am amazed by the shear joy ravens seem to display at simply flying. Raven are considered to be some of the most intelligent animals in the world. They are highly social and have developed a strong bond with human beings, going as far back as nomadic hunter-gatherers. Their intelligence and adaptability has helped them expand their range into more urban areas. Ravens started to appear in San Francisco in the early 1980’s and now they have a strong foothold in the City by the Bay.
Ravens also share something else with humans: a complex communication system. As corvid researcher John Marzluff writes, “Ravens have perhaps the most complex vocabulary of any bird. They scream, trill, croak, cackle, warble, yell, kaw, and make sounds like wood blocks, bells, and dripping water. . Variety and unpredictability define crow, raven, and other corvid calls, so whenever you hear something inexplicable in the forest or field, odds are that a corvid is the source.”
Common Raven (Corvus corax) perched at the entrance to the hiking path at Fort Funston. The ravens at Fort Funston allow close approach and provide many opportunities to observe this endlessly entertaining bird.
Reclining on an ice plant “love seat”, sketching, watching ravens, and reveling in nature. A wonderful fall day at Fort Funston.