A belligerent raven, sculpted by Peter Woytuk, hangs out near the entrance to the subway station on Broadway and 72nd Street. The big bronze bird appears to have taken on the character of a neighborhood scold.
“Ever hear of personal space, pal? Back off, or I bite.”
An equal opportunity scold, the raven’s most common targets are walkers.
“Get off the damn cell phone, son!”
But the bird is not above nagging the occasional sleeper.
“Sleeper, awake! There is no time but now! Let’s go, buddy, rise and shine.”
On a recent visit to my neighborhood on-line newspaper, the West Side Rag, I was surprised to encounter this photo of the raven.
Photo courtesy of West Side Rag (click photo to visit)
Notice anything strange? Okay, I’ll tell you. The raven is facing the other direction.
Given that the bird weighs many hundreds of pounds, this is decidedly odd. In an accompanying article, the Rag surmises that someone, “probably young, drunk and strong,” is responsible for changing the bird’s position. “Please sir or madam,” implores the writer, ” do not do this again. It is messing with our collective heads.”
But I have a different theory about the raven’s rotation. Have you ever tried to scold someone who’s standing behind you? Of course not. An effective scold always gets right up in the face of his or her target.
Now take a look at the photo below.
“Put that drink down! Put that cigarette out! Are you listening to one word I say?”
The raven rants and raves, but that young man goes right on smoking and guzzling.
But I imagine there comes a moment, out of sight of any camera, when the raven suddenly snaps, spins, and unleashes the full fury of the scold. In terror, the man throws down his cigarette and drink, and runs for shelter into the subway. He’ll never take another puff, and never buy another soda.
This is just one of the unexpected health benefits of sharing the city with wildlife.
And just so you know, we really do share the city with flesh-and-blood ravens. A single raven was brought to NYC by a man who found it injured in Idaho in 2008. The raven spent a couple of years living in Marble Cemetery on the Lower East Side. According to Animal Tourism News, the bird eventually healed and, just last spring, flew away to parts unknown. In addition, a pair of wild ravens have successfully nested and raised young in Queens.