The iconic Icelandic corvid is actually in decline across the country, but in the Westfjords, their numbers are not only greater than ever; people are actually leaving out food for them there.
RÚV reports that it has become somewhat of a local pastime to feed ravens. These very intelligent and very large birds dine on a variety of products, and Icelanders in the Westfjords most commonly feed them carcasses of various animals and tallow.
The Icelandic Institute of Natural History (IINH) actually lists the raven as being in “overwhelming danger”, as their numbers have been on the wane across the country. Kristinn H. Skarphéðinsson told Grapevine this is due in part to an increasing number of people killing them, while at the same time, their typical food sources – carcasses – have been on the wane.
Icelanders in the Westfjords, however, contend that ravens have been on the rise in their region – possibly due to the large number of Icelanders who deliberately feed them.
Not everyone, however, is on board with feeding ravens. Sigríður Gísladóttir, a veterinarian who lives in Ísafjörður, points out that the food typically left out for ravens is not only enjoyed by these birds, but also by cats, dogs and seagulls. Furthermore, the behavior of these birds towards their food could possibly attract rodents.
“Because they’re so intelligent,” she told reporters. “When a raven has eaten its fill, it stores the remainder of the food under the corrugated iron on people’s roofs, keeping it there over several days,” a practice that can attract mice and rats, which are known to live in harbour towns such as Ísafjörður.
As such, those who do want to feed ravens are advised to only leave out a small amount of food, so that any prospective ravens eat only a meal’s worth at a time.
The further adventures of ravens in Icelandic news: