sacrilegious to kill one. An age-old superstition states if all the ravens in a wood
suddenly forsake it, surely disaster will follow. Another Tower raven legend chronicled
in the Mabinogion states that upon the death of the giant king Bran the Blessed (bran
means raven in Welsh), his head was cut off and buried at the “White Hill” in London,
(usually identified as Tower Hill) “with the face turned towards France”. This burial is
known in the Welsh Triads as one of the Three Happy Concealments of The Island of
the Mighty. As long as Bran’s head stays buried there, Britain will be safe from
invasion. It is as if these older legends, folktales, and superstitions fused to form the
current Tower of London raven legend.

It is claimed that the ravens have been at the Tower of London since the 13th century,
and for the last 400 years they have been protected by royal decree. However, Geoff
Parnell, the official Tower of London historian, recently scoured records dating back a
millennium and found no reference to the ravens before an 1895 article in an RSPCA
journal, The Animal World. One Edith Hawthorn referred to the Tower’s pet cat being
tormented by the ravens, Jenny and a nameless mate. A menagerie was kept at the
Tower by generations of monarchs for at least 600 years until it became the foundation
of London Zoo. There were hawks, lions, leopards, monkeys and even a polar bear –
but no mention of ravens. Besides, the Duke of Wellington, who dismantled the
menagerie in 1835, wanted to get dangerous animals out of the way of his garrison and
would hardly have tolerated six sharp-beaked ravens hanging around. Dr Parnell’s
research suggests that some ravens may have been a punning gift to the Tower by the
third Earl of Dunraven (1812-71), an archæologist and antiquarian fascinated by Celtic
raven myths, who added ravens to his family coat of arms. Some now believe the raven
legend is a Victorian invention, but we can’t be certain. Absence of evidence isn’t
evidence of absence.

Ravens are now a protected species in Britain. The Tower birds are cared for by one of
the Yeoman Warders (known as Beefeaters) with the regal title of Ravenmaster. The
current Ravenmaster, Derrick Coyle, a former Sergeant Major, has been at the Tower
According to tradition, the curious raven prophecy can be traced back to the “Merry
Monarch”, Charles II (1660-1685). On 22 June 1675, the King established the Royal
Observatory at the Tower of London, housed in the north-eastern turret of the White
Tower. The Royal Astronomer, John Flamsteed (1646-1719), allegedly complained to
the King that the birds were interfering with his celestial observations. Charles therefore
ordered their demise – only to be forewarned by an obscure soothsayer that: “if the
ravens left the Tower, the White Tower would collapse and a great disaster befall the
Kingdom”. There are various similar versions of the legend, but all maintain that a
horrible catastrophe would be visited upon the country if all the ravens quit the Tower.
After hearing the warning, the King decreed that at least six ravens be kept at the
Tower at all times to prevent such a calamity. Now the birds’ wings are routinely
clipped so they cannot escape.

For an example of ravens forcibly expelled from a castle tower, bringing forth a dismal
curse, just look at the ill-fated Hapsburg dynasty. The Hapsburgs were rulers of the
Holy Roman Empire (962-1806), and they had in their possession the miraculous Holy
Lance. Long ago, the castle tower of their ancestral Schlöss Hapsburg had many ravens
flying about and merrily making nests everywhere, until one day the Hapsburgs cruelly
exterminated every last one of them.

This was the origin of the Hapsburg Curse. From then on, the Hapsburgs were haunted
by supernatural ravens called Turnfalken, whose every appearance presaged doom to
members of the imperial family. Numerous times in history the foreboding Turnfalken
have been seen in Vienna soaring above the Schönbrunn and Hofburg palaces. It has
been claimed that in Paris the ravens were seen hovering and screeching over Marie
Antoinette as she was guillotined, in Mexico when Emperor Maximilian was shot by the
firing squad, at Mayerling when Prince Rudolf and his lover Countess Maria Vetsera
Royal College of Art. Previously, I had researched raven lore, heard the Tower of
London raven legend, and wanted to see the Tower ravens first-hand. I came upon the
portentous birds just before noon, after seeing an informative display of fake torture
instruments in the Bloody Tower. The ravens were to my right, just west of the White
Tower. They were gathered by their cages, situated at ground level atop a grassy
mound near the ruin of the Wall of the Innermost Ward. A sign was posted: “Warning:
Ravens Bite.” An ominous black raven turned my way, croaked, and then casually
picked up a stick in her beak.

The Innermost Ward was an enclosed area once reserved for royalty and nobles of the
court. The Ward’s crumbling 13th-century rampart wall is pierced by gaping holes that
once served as embrasures (narrow slits for arrows). Purportedly, a ghostly figure has
been observed glaring through the apertures in the wall – vanishing only to reappear at
each hole all along the deteriorating ruin. It is behind this haunted wall that the ghastly
ravens make their doleful nests.

The ravens’ favourite haunt is the Tower Green, the former site of royal beheadings. In
1536, Anne Boleyn was beheaded here. After her head was severed, the executioner
held it up, and for a moment the eyes and lips continued to move. It is claimed that her
bluish, headless ghost still wanders the vicinity. A gruesome shadow of a huge
executioner’s axe has also been seen gliding across the Green. Traditionally, ravens are
thought to be prophetic birds and are associated with execution sites and graveyards.
The raven coop is placed quite close to the Bloody Tower. In 1483, the Little Princes
(12-year-old King Edward V and his nine-year-old brother Richard, Duke of York)
were brought to the Bloody Tower, and subsequently disappeared from history; many
assume they were brutally murdered. In 1647, workmen tearing up a staircase found
the bones of two children purported to be the Princes. It is said that on bleak and
dreary nights, the ghostly figures of the Little Princes, dressed in white nightclothes,
stand silently hand in hand before slowly fading away. At times their soft weeping can
be heard after dark near the raven roost.

Sir Walter Raleigh was also imprisoned in the Bloody Tower for 13 years before he
finally got the axe. His phantom has been seen floating noiselessly through the various
rooms. The Beefeaters from time to time even report smelling the phantom aroma of
How Ida Solved the Puzzle
Quiz #556 Results
Bookmark and Share
Answers to Quiz #456 - November 23, 2014
1. Why are these birds famous?  How many are there?
2. Give one legend about how they came to be where they are.
3. What happens to a bird if it misbehaves?
1.  They are the ravens at the Tower of London
2.  There are many.  One is that wild ravens, as well as pigs and kites, were the
biggest scavengers in medieval London. Allegedly after the fire, survivors
started persecuting ravens for scavenging, but Flamsteed explained to Charles
II that killing all ravens would be a bad omen, and that the kingdom would not
outlive the last killed raven. Charles II then ordered six birds to be kept at the
3. It is dismissed from service and sent to a zoo.
Comments from Our Readers
I read somewhere that they were killing 200 crows a day. Hmmm...Can this be
possible? Plausible?

George Eliot was female (though it was her pen name).
Tynan Peterson
Aren't all the names of the ravens wonderful!!!!!!!!! Such royal treatment going
to the birds! Soundsa as though some of the birds have attitude problems!

Fearless Leader, I'm sure that if the ravens had to sign a contract to serve at
the Tower of London, that they used a feather pen!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was relieved that I didn't have to translate any words this time.  Ravens this
time. Thanks.
Grace Hertz and Mary Turner
The Fabulous Flecthers
I admit that I knew these were the Ravens of the Tower of London when I saw the
picture. I remember seeing them when I visited the iconic tourist site in 2005.
Rebecca Bare
[Regarding Raven George really being Georgina] Yes, interesting to see that not
only the Brontë sisters passed themselves off as men; this trick even extended into
the foul world, I mean fowl world.

Georgina had them all fooled, even the Ravenmaster. LOL I guess even black birds
know that it is still pretty much a man's world after all.  As a very prominent author
once wrote: "Mother Earth had become a man’s world, and the gods of destruction
and war were taking their toll." Not to mention the likes of Henry VIII.
Cynthia Costigan
This quiz was pretty easy, even though at first I thought it was going to be
impossible. I just googled "famous xxx" where xxx was whatever large
black bird I thought of. When I tried ravens, I immediately remembered the Tower
ravens and knew I was in the right place.
Roger Lipsett
I visited England in January with daughter and grandkids. Visited the Tower.
Recognized the background, but didn't remember what it was used for. Googling
Famous Ravens brought up much information. They must have been good at
defending their location to start the legend about the kingdom falling way back in
1600s. They were very obnoxious then. Flew past the astronomer's telescope and
disrupted viewing so he requested they be eliminated. 6 were required to be always
kept on hand.
Arthur Hartwell
I recognized the green and the birds because Ive been there.  It seems I can only
solve what I knew a priori. Yes.  I am positive that the birds are warned about the
consequences of conduct unbecoming, but in English, which I don't think they
Debbie Johnson
Google images: "ravens on the grass" leads to

This pair of birds has little in common with your photo, but to me it has a similar
feel or atmosphere. So it leads me to google "ravens tower of london" which leads
to many photos, some of which contain the distinctive iron railing and balusters in
your photo. [I didn't find your photo, per se.]

So now we google (not images) "ravens tower of london" to get which says:

"The ravens of the Tower of London are a group of captive common ravens which
live in the Tower of London. The group of ravens at the Tower comprises at least
seven individuals (six required, with a seventh in reserve). The presence of the
ravens is traditionally believed to protect the Crown and the Tower; a superstition
holds that "If the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown
will fall and Britain with it."[1][2]"

This page also gives a number of Tower-raven stories, including how misbehaving
birds are exiled to Coventry (e.g., a Welsh zoo).

Time spent: less than an hour.
Collier Smith
I visited England in January with daughter and grandkids. Visited the Tower.
Recognized the background, but didn't remember what it was used for. Googling
Famous Ravens brought up much information. They must have been good at
defending their location to start the legend about the kingdom falling way back in
1600s. They were very obnoxious then. Flew past the astronomer's telescope and
disrupted viewing so he requested they be eliminated. 6 were required to be always
kept on hand.
Arthur Hartwell
Great one this week! I tried my hardest to find the exact spot this photo was taken
but could not get a good image of reference photos online or map. It was worth a
try. I will just say the regular spot of the Ravens of the Tower of London.
Daniel Dean
You seem to have a proclivity for the Tower of London, as the first one I did was
the ceramic poppies.  It did take a few minutes to sort out there were ravens, not

I suspect how they came to be where they are is that the flew there.  The legend
deals more with why they were allowed to stay more than how they can to be there
in the first place.
Gar Watson

Congratulations to Our Winners

Arthur Hartwell                Carol Farrant
Marcelle Comeau                Winnifred Evans
Debbie Johnson                Judy Pfaff
Ida Sanchez                Margaret Waterman
Roger Lipsett                Tynan Peterson
Tim Yonug                Magaret Paxton
Gus Marsh                Gar Watson
Rebecca Bare                Cynthia Costigan
Carol Farrant                Daniel Dean
Kathy West                Collier Smith

Grace Hertz and Mary Turner
The Fabulous Fletchers!
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!-- Start Quantcast tag -->
Derek Coyle left the famous Yorkshire
regiment the Green Howards in 1983 to
come to the Tower of London, where he
has been looking after Britain’s most
important birds for the last 22 years. JEN
OGILVIE spoke to him about life as the
Yeoman Ravenmaster and his famous
feathered charges.

FT: What is a typical day for you as
The Ravenmaster Speaks
FT interviews Derek Coyle, Tower of London Ravenmaster
By Jen Ogilvie
DC: In winter, my day will start at 7 o’clock. I will scrub all the water bowls out first.
And then I’ll feed the birds, and then I’ll clean the cages out. And then I’ll get myself
ready for work. I’ll normally go to work about 9 o’clock. I’ll be on a post within the
Tower all day. I check the birds all the time. I’m forever looking at the birds, making
sure they’re all right. I’ll feed them in winter again at about 1 o’clock in the afternoon,
making sure that every day they’ve all had at least 8oz of meat. Every other day they’ll
get a boiled egg and I’ll give them chopped apple, grapes – they love cheese by the
way. And then, again in the winter, by 3.30–3.45 it’s time to put them all back to bed. I’
ll go back on duty till 4.30, and then my time is my own.

In the summer, I’ll have the birds out at 4 o’clock in the morning or whenever it’s light
and they won’t be going back to bed again till 9.30 at night. So it is really a very long
day. I try to keep the ravens to their natural rhythm. In the wild they would be up at
dawn and they’d go to bed at dusk. I try to keep everything here as natural as I
possibly can.

As regards food, I buy fresh meat from Smithfield – liver, lamb, beef, chicken. And
Derek Coyle Ravenmaster
occasionally when I’m at my own place in
Suffolk someone will give me some rabbit
that’s been killed. If I see roadkill on the
road, and it’s not been too badly mangled,
I normally put it in a black bag and bring it
back here. I give them biscuits as well,
soaked in blood from the meat that I buy.
And in winter I get them capsules of cod
liver oil. I know they’re getting as much
vitamins and oil as they possibly can. That’
s why they look so healthy.

FT: On the subject of keeping the ravens
healthy – what are you doing to protect them against bird flu?

DC: Bird flu is one of my big worries at the moment. I’m sort of using Poland or the
eastern side of Germany as a buffer. If it gets that near to me, that’s when the birds
will go into isolation. I’ve already got the cages built; they’re in a huge room, with
enough light and air for them. It’ll be just like being in their outside cages but they’ll be
indoors. So they’ll be totally isolated; the only people who’ll deal with them is myself
and my assistants. All the measures that I can take are already in place: we’ve got suits,
masks, protective gloves, and all the DRFRA-approved disinfectant. So I think my birds
will be probably the safest in the country.

FT: Are you shooting crows to protect the ravens from bird flu?

DC: Yes and no. I do cull the crows but I must emphasise I only kill the sick ones. The
crows here are inbred and they do pick up
a lot of diseases. You’ll see their eyes are
dull; their plumage is very, very dull. A
crow will sit in a tree for two days hardly
moving and you know it’ s sick. I have a
very high-powered air rifle with a huge
scope on it and I can zoom straight in on
the birds and tell if they’re sick. I don’t
cull healthy birds, just the sick ones.

FT: What else do you do to keep the
ravens safe?
DC: The ravens are caged every night because we do get the odd fox or feral cat.
There are domesticated cats too, but when these cats first come in, they only attack the
ravens once and they normally come off worse. You see a cat, it’ll give the ravens a
wide berth. And the ravens will start calling to each other when they see a cat anyway,
and they’ll move out of the way of the cat. They have a healthy respect for each other.

FT: And do you have extra ravens in case anything happens to the ones in the Tower?

DC: I’ve got 12 ravens that I’ve given away – they were bred here between 1989 and
1991 – to various wildlife parks around the country, and they were given with the
proviso that if I go below my recognised number of six, they’ll come back to the
Tower. There must be a complement of six at all times, and that’s a decree that goes
back to Charles II, he decreed that must be six ravens here at all times.

FT: How long has there been a Ravenmaster at the Tower?

DC: The post of Ravenmaster only goes back about 40 years. Before that, they were
called Yeoman Quartermaster. There’s been ravens here as long as anyone can
remember, so someone’s been looking after them all that time, so you could say it goes
back to when the ravens first got here.

FT: Why did you decide on this is a job?

DC: Well, I’m a country boy, born and brought up on a farm, and when I first came
here the Ravenmaster at the time said to
me: “You’re a country boy, would you like
to be involved with the ravens?” and I
jumped at the chance. And from then, I
was sort of the deputy deputy
Ravenmaster, and then I became assistant
Ravenmaster, and then when the
Ravenmaster retired I became the
Ravenmaster, and I have been for the last
seven years. But I’ve been looking after the
birds for nearly 22 years.
FT: Tell me about the ravens described being ‘enlisted’ or ‘dismissed’.

DC: We had a raven here called George. Now, years ago we didn’t know what sex the
ravens were. It’s very hard to distinguish a male from a female. When ravens were
taken on, they were normally given the name of the person who found them. George
was named after a coastguard in Anglesea. George came to the Tower, was a bit of a
loner, used to spend all his time on the doctor’s roof. One day, a Saturday afternoon,
the doctor – who was a Scotsman – was watching a Scotland against England rugby
match, and all of a sudden the picture went on his television. So he decided to go
upstairs onto the roof, and when he got up there, George had actually bitten through the
cable. So the doctor wasn’t very happy about that, because he missed the game.
Anyway, the cable was repaired, and about 3 months later the doctor’s watching
television, the picture goes off, and he thinks: “George”. And George was there. So
George was retired as ‘services no longer required’. And he went to the Welsh
mountains, to Colwyn Bay, where he was put in a great big aviary with another raven.
Now George so liked the other raven that George laid an egg, and now he’s Georgina.
And Gwyllum, the raven that’s here now, is the product of that egg. So Gwyllum’s
mother was here, masquerading as a male.

We used to have another raven here called Rhys. Rhys, again he came from Anglesea,
and Rhys was the one that used to bark just like a little terrier, and he’d wait till there
was a group of tourists on Tower Green and he’d start barking like a dog, and
everyone would be looking round for the dog and all they’d see was Rhys. Another one
of his tricks was, there’s a great big fountain on Tower Green for anyone to have a
drink of water from, and he’d wait till there was a young girl who had long hair and a
ribbon in her hair and when she bent down to have a drink Rhys would be there quick
as a flash and get her ribbon off and take it on to the grass where the young girl couldn’
t go, and he’d then sit there shredding it to bits.

FT: So they all have different personalities?

DC: Oh yes. Some of them are shy, some of them are very bold, some of the birds are
very bossy. Yes, they’ve all got their own personalities.

FT: And do they get on well together?

DC: They get on as a group nine months of the year, but in the three months when it’s
breeding season the males fight like billy-o. That’s why in the spring the two breeding
pair, or the two pair that’s married, have to be separated for their own good, because
they’d attack each other.

FT: Have you seen any evidence of prophetic abilities?

DC: Before my time, three or four of the ravens gathered around one of the yeoman
warder’s houses, and they were crowing and squawking, and about 4 or 5 hours later
the yeoman warder found out that his son had been badly hurt in a car accident.
After several failed attempts both in English and Spanish involving
famous crows, famous ravens, black birds, if a bird misbehaves, etc.
in Google, I typed "crows in the" and checked the suggestions for
something odd or unusual. One of them at the bottom was "crowds
in the Tower of London". It was the only one with a proper name, so
I used it. Then I  saw a similar image but only with one bird, and
bingo, I had tons and tons on information on the subject (including
the 3 questions) that literally has everything you wanted to know
about the Myths of the Raven and never dared to ask.

Ida Sanchez
Myths of the Raven

The myths and meanings of the Tower
of London ravens

By Jeffrey Vallance
In the summer of 2004, I was in London
to give a lecture in connection with the
exhibition “This much is certain” at the
roast beef in the White Tower after
nightfall. When the Tower ghosts make
their appearances, the ravens become
unusually agitated and will not settle
down. The 1962 MGM horror film classic
The Tower of London, based on
Shakespeare’s Richard III, stars Vincent
Price as the demented despot haunted by
grim ravens and the forlorn ghosts of his
consummated their suicide pact (although
some say they were murdered), and at
Sarajevo when Archduke Ferdinand was
assassinated – triggering World War I and
the crumbling Hapsburg empire’s final

Possibly related to the London Tower
legend are other raven folktales,
superstitions, and legends. According to
Cornish folklore, the spirit of King Arthur
is said to dwell in ravens, and for this
reason it is considered unlucky and even
for 20 years, first serving as Deputy
Ravenmaster before becoming full-time
Ravenmaster six years ago. Coyle’s arms
are full of nasty scars, evidence of the
ravens’ powerful bills and razor-sharp
talons – he stoically calls them “love taps.”
The birds are fed kitchen scraps, an
occasional rabbit, and the odd roadkill that
the Ravenmaster happens to pick up. The
ravens Odin and Thor, brothers, used to
mimic the Ravenmaster’s voice, including
the vocalisations, “Come on then!” and
“Good morning.” Sadly, however, these two birds passed away in 2003.

It has been observed (not infrequently) that when a member of the flock perishes, the
birds will hold what could be called a “raven funeral” – a 24-hour event marked by
raucous outcries. The Ravenmaster buries the dead bird in the Raven Cemetery located
in the drained moat close to the Watergate and the St Thomas Tower. (St Thomas is
the patron saint of clergy.) There is a special Raven Memorial Headstone that lists all
ravens buried there from 1956 onwards. (Incidentally, in England, tombstones are
sometimes referred to as “ravenstones”.) The St Thomas Tower is also known as
Traitors’ Gate because it was through this Tower that condemned prisoners accused of
treason arrived from Westminster. The Tower is named in honour of Sir Thomas
Becket, whose apparition has been seen striking the walls of the building with a
crucifix, loudly proclaiming it was not made for the common good but “for the injury
and prejudice of the Londoners, my brethren”.

As I wrote this in Southern California, a raven-black crow fell from the sky and landed
dead on my driveway. I buried it in the backyard (under a spare headstone originally
carved for Blinky the Friendly Hen - see FT53:23). I worried about my freshly
deceased feathered friend, especially since a dead crow can indicate that the West Nile
Virus is in the region. Up in Southeast Alaska, a mysterious life-threatening beak
deformity is now affecting crows and ravens. The deformity can cause beaks to grow
up to three times their normal size and prevent regular feeding, and in many birds it
leads to death. The cause of the phenomenon is unknown.

Today the Tower strictly maintains the decree-required six ravens. Their names are,
appropriately, Hugine, Munin, Bran, Branwen, Gwyllum, and Cedric. (The Norse god
Odin had two raven familiars named Huginn and Muninn who perched on his shoulders
and told him everything they saw and heard. I wonder if the current monarchy has the
same arrangement.) Each Tower raven can be identified by a different coloured leg
band. Ravens can live a long time – the oldest was Jim Crow, who died at the age 44
(and by the way, there is a bourbon whiskey called ‘Old Crow’).

To anyone from the States, the name Jim Crow sounds inappropriate as a name for a
raven, as it is a derogatory term for a Black person. The era of the Jim Crow laws (the
“black codes,” 1877 to the mid-1960s) is
one of the most appalling and shameful
periods in American history – a time of
racial discrimination, segregation, and
lynch mobs. The term “Jim Crow” is
derived from a character in an antebellum
minstrel show contrived by Thomas
Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice, a white actor
who was one of the first to wear
blackface to do stereotypical imitations of
Negro performers (paving the way for
such entertainers as Al Jolson). Daddy Rice did his Jim Crow song-and-dance routine
to astounding acclaim from audiences in New York and London.

During World War II, the grim raven prophecy almost came to pass, as only one raven
(named Grip) was left at the Tower. The other birds were killed by bombing or pined
and died of shock during the Blitz. In fact, the ravens’ cages are built on the ruined
foundation of the Main Guard tower (or Queen Victoria’s Canteen), destroyed on 29
December 1940 by a Nazi incendiary bomb. In 1944, the gutted Main Guard building
was demolished, revealing the mediæval Wall of the Innermost Ward. When the Tower
reopened to the public on 1 January 1946, there were six ravens once again.

In 1981, a raven named Grog managed to escape from the Tower after 21 years’
service and was last spotted scavenging outside the Rose and Punchbowl pub in
London’s East End. The birds are treated not as pets but as military personnel. They are
“enlisted” and can be “dismissed” like soldiers for unbecoming behaviour. In 1986, a
raven called George, “enlisted in 1975”, was dismissed for “conduct unsatisfactory”
and sent to the Welsh Mountain Zoo. He “received his marching orders” after
demolishing television aerials.

A trickster raven named Rhys, a skilful mimic, used to get behind groups of people and
start barking like a dog. People would look around for the dog, while Rhys would run
off, cackling to himself. Then there is the sad story of the “Two Charlies”. While
preparing for a royal visit by Queen Elizabeth, a bomb-sniffing dog named Charlie was
sent in. A raven also named Charlie pecked Charlie the dog, who then took the bird in
his mouth and bit down hard, killing him.

According to documentation released under the Freedom of Information Act in
February 2005, the Tower ravens are under threat from an invasion of 200 crows a day
and these common cousins are being shot to protect the ravens from diseases and
competition for food. The cull takes place before tourists arrive. The RSPB said it was
legal to shoot urban crows to protect the ravens, but
the law was being reviewed. However, wild ravens
could soon be nesting at the Tower again after being
found breeding near the capital for the first time in 180
years. Nests have been recorded in Bedfordshire,
Sussex, Berkshire and Hampshire. Although once
common in London, where they scavenged on refuse
and the bodies hanging in gibbets at the Tower, ravens
last nested in the wild in Hyde Park in 1826.

My raven research was enhanced by a pamphlet given
to me by FT founding co-editor Paul Sieveking, entitled
Coracomancy: Raven Crow(s) Behaviour (translated
from Tibetan). According to the pamphlet, “There are
expressions in the language and behaviour of ravens
and crows which accurately convey messages and portents. These can be interpreted,
if observed and understood correctly.” By use of coracomancy, I attempted to divine
the calls and conduct of the Tower ravens I encountered. A raven crowing at mid-
morning until mid-day from the west means “a long distance will be travelled”. (That
was certain – I faced an exhausting 10-hour flight back to Los Angeles.) While
travelling near a river (the Tower is, of course, next to the Thames), a raven crowing
from the right side predicts “the journey will be successful”. (My trip did go rather

A raven sitting on a castle at any time means “good lodgings will be found”. (The St
Margaret hotel near the British Museum proved to be quite good. St Margaret is the
patron saint of queens.) A raven holding a stick or piece of wood foretells “something
will be found”. (I found a flake of the Tower that had crumbled off, and I saved it as a
relic.) Concerning signs by location of nests, when a raven makes its nest in a wall, on
the ground, or by water, it predicts “the King (or Queen) will prosper”. (I wondered if
the Ravenmaster had read the Coracomancy pamphlet and placed the ravens’ nests on
the ground near a wall – precisely in the perfect position for English Royalty to
prosper.) It was the raven named Munin who gave me that piercing sideways stare
with her beady jet-black eyes as she crowed “ka-ka” in a high-pitched voice, which
translates as “wealth will be obtained”. (Once again the raven’s prediction was flawless,
as I was subsequently notified that I would receive a major research grant.) I was
amazed that the raven prognostications were all right on the money.
Controversy about How Many Ravens are Held in Reserve
The minimum is six on duty, with one in reserve, but allegedly they
had two in reserve when Grip and Jubilee were killed in 2013 by a
fox.  So that would make 6 on guard at a time, but potentially 8 total
being housed.  

The ravens of the Tower of London are a group of captive common
ravens which live in the Tower of London. The group of ravens at
the Tower comprises at least seven individuals (six required, with a
seventh in reserve).

Robert Wilde's article states "Six ravens, plus a number of

In 2000, the Washington Post wrote there were supposed to be two
in reserve, but they only had one at the time. "Today, six ravens (and
two reserves, though there is only one right now) are kept at the

This article vaguely states "a number in reserve".

Similar to Fodor's London 2015 stating "(six birds plus

It seems to answer the question definitively, with the exact number of
birds including those in reserve today, would take a call to
Ravenmaster John Wilmington.  Short of that is an educated guess.

Gar Watson
Subtle Hint from the Photo
The ravens are seated on the grass
in front of the well-known site of
the scafford on Tower Green where
Anne Boleyn was executed at the
Tower of London.