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Raven is a name given to several species of black bird of the species Corvus, a designation shared with crows. The larger family Corvidae also includes jays, jackdaws and rooks. The common raven (Corvus corax) of Europe and North America is the largest member of the passerine (perching) bird family.
The raven is considered by many to be the most intelligent of all of the birds. It can learn to mimic ambient sounds or even speech. A scavenger by nature, it is nevertheless highly sanitary as compared to its smaller cousins. Its coloration may be described as mostly black with hints of other coloration, such as purple or green, especially on the pin feathers. Some species of raven have iridescent feathers.
In European mythology, ravens often figure as a sinister presence. For the Europeans, ravens were a common sight on battlefields, feeding off the corpses of warriors and soldiers. This coupled with their intelligence has landed them with a fearful reputation as creatures of ill omen. The Danish armies used to use a raven on their standards, no doubt to inspire dread in their enemies. Because of their intelligence, ravens are also associated with the Norse god Odin.
In the cultures of the Pacific Northwest of North America, Raven is said to have created the universe and plays a leading role in much of their mythology. In the legends, Raven is a shape-shifting upstart with an insatiable appetite and wicked sense of humour. The Raven stories from this part of the world demonstrate a completely different interpretation of ravens to the European take on them.
A number of ravens are kept at the Tower of London. A local legend states that so long as there are ravens in the tower, England shall not fall. Understandably to discourage this from happening the ravens have their wings clipped, but are otherwise free to wander around and interact with visitors to the tower. There is also a quietly poignant monument to the departed ravens outside the main tower.
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe is the best-known English literary reference to ravens. The narrative suggests that the bird is typically associated with the night and considered intelligent. The mental condition of the narrator is such that the reader may never be certain whether or not this particular raven actually existed outside the narrator's mind.
In the fandom
Although birds are generally a minority among furry characters, ravens have been chosen by many for their avatars. The few raven characters as of this writing seem to tend toward the punk/goth subset in line with the bird's reputation as a bird of ill omen. A notable exception to this trend and one of the more famous ravens of the fandom is Kurrel the Raven, creator of The Furry Song.