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Tower of London

Page 7
Continued from page 6


ABOVE: The Tower's Raven Master, Derrick Coyle, with one of his charges. INSET: A bird poses for tourists.

The Tower Ravens

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.

photoIf you're an aficionado of raven trivia, take a moment to memorize these facts and figures about the Tower's avian mascots:

  • Seven ravens currently live at the Tower. Three are females; four are males. The two newest birds, Bran and Branwen, joined the team in August, 2003.

  • 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.)

Next page: Ceremony of the Keys

Photos copyright © HRP. Used by permission.

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