Corvids (crows, ravens, jays, nutcrackers and magpies) exhibit the most complex play behaviour.
The Common Ravens (Corvus corax), the largest of the corvids, exhibit play catching, flight play, bathing play, vocal play, hanging, games, allospecific interactions, sliding and snow-romping.
As with most behavioural traits in birds, these are all described from the west. So far, limited play observations have been described from Asia. Brazil (2002) reported raven play in Hokkaido, Japan in winter, indulging in sliding and rolling in snow or snow-romping.
In October 2007, Lin Yangchen observed the evening play of Common Ravens on a small hill overlooking a village (4,400m a.s.l.) on the Tibetan plateau.
These include one flying like “a stealth bomber (left top), another “about to jettison a sheep’s horn” to subsequently land near where it fell on the ground (left bottom). The bird approached the horn but the presence of tourists scared it off. The birds were also gliding “in the way children race down the street on bicycles” (left middle).
He also documented them hanging from the overhead wires with one or both feet, or even by the tips of their bills, then indulging in free falls. The birds could even execute a 360-degree sideways roll in aerial acrobatic (below left) or indulge in “levitation” as Yangcheng aptly describes it (below right).
Input and images by Lin Yangchen.
Brazil, Mark (2002). Common Raven Corvus corax at play; records from Japan. Ornithol. Sci. 1:150-2.