Caw blimey! That raven just told me to bugger off

News

Caw blimey! That raven just told me to bugger off

Potty-mouthed birds at the Tower of London swear at schoolchildren - and steal their Pringles

Helena Horton


Children visiting the Tower of London risk having swear words croaked at them by the resident ravens, the Beefeater in charge of them has said.
Christopher Skaife, who has been the Ravenmaster at the Tower for seven years, said the birds are misunderstood, but intelligent, and have learnt how to use bad language.
In a new book, The Ravenmaster: My Life With The Ravens At The Tower Of London, Skaife says the famous black birds are fed mice, rats and day-old chicks, and play games such as Kerplunk with their guardian and friend in exchange for their favourite foods.
His favourite bird, 12-year-old Merlina, has become adept at using her beak to mimic noises and talk to him, he said.
“Merlina likes playing with sticks while rolling on her back and doing forward rolls. She is also adept at mimicking strange sounds to get what she wants,” he says.
“This is a particular talent of ravens and there is nothing more embarrassing than walking around the tower with a group of schoolchildren and suddenly having a raven hopping up to you and saying: ‘Bugger off! Bugger off!’”
Not only does she swear at children, Merlina is known to steal their crisps.
“Merlina has a knack for spotting – from the other side of Tower Green – members of the public eating Pringles. Stealing the tube and popping off the lid to cram as many into her mouth as possible, she will even take them to the nearest water bowl and give them a wash if she doesn’t like the taste.”
Skaife, who served 25 years as an infantryman before becoming a Beefeater, says he has learnt how to speak back to her, and calls her to his side every morning.
“I’ve learnt to become a mimic myself. I’m hardly Dr Dolittle, but Merlina and I have developed this ‘Kn-ck kn-ck’ call that we make to each other. She’ll call for me: ‘Kn-ck kn-ck’. And I’ll call back: ‘Kn-ck kn-ck’.”
– © The Daily Telegraph

This article is reserved for Times Select subscribers.
A subscription gives you full digital access to all Times Select content.

Times Select

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems?
Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.

Next Article

A spoonful of ouzo helps the Medicane go down

By Darrel Bristow-Bovey
6 min read

Previous Article