Nobody knows when ravens first came to the Tower of London, but
they've been associated with the Tower for centuries. Legend dictates that, if
the ravens ever leave, the Tower will fall and the Kingdom will fall, so Charles
II decreed that there must always be at least six ravens at the Tower. That
tradition has been honored for more than 300 years.
Seven ravens currently live at the Tower. Three are females;
four are males. The two newest birds, Bran and Branwen, joined the team in
To keep the birds from flying away, the Raven Master clips
their lifting feathers. The procedure doesn't hurt them in any way; it
simply unbalances their flight so they won't stray from the Tower.
Ravens have escaped occasionally. Grog was last seen outside
an East End pub called the Rose and Punchbowl in 198 after living at the
tower for 21 years (seven years longer than Sir Walter Raleigh).
Occasionally, birds are dismissed for bad behavior. George
was exiled to the Welsh Mountain Zoo in 1986 after developing an unhealthy
taste for TV antennas, while two other ravens were banished in 1996 for
"conduct unbecoming Tower residents."
Ravens are well fed: Each bird's daily ration includes 6
ounces of meat and bird-formula biscuits soaked in blood. Once a week the
birds enjoy an egg, and they're occasionally given a rabbit (the fur is good
for them). The ravens also enjoy scraps from the Tower's mess kitchen.
Ravens can live to a ripe old age. The oldest raven to live
at the Tower was Jim Crow, who died at the age of 44. The oldest raven
curently living at the Tower is Hardey, who is 26 years old.
Since 1987, the Tower has undertaken an ambitious and
successful breeding program. Charlie and Rhys paired up and produced a total
of 17 chicks.
(The information above was supplied by the Tower's press office,
whose staff are on good terms with their feathered colleagues.)