Pet or raven lunatic? Prankster bird bedevils, amuses neighbors
The story of the mischievous, infamous raven living on the Redlands is “only this and nothing more,” as Edgar Allen Poe might say.
Known as “Black Bart” in the neighborhoods near The Ridges and Broadway, this raven has a reputation for being a real practical joker.
He’s been known to perch on rooftops to watch residents working on their cars or homes, then swoop down to steal screwdrivers or bolts, only to stash them in one of hundreds of caches.
If he’s in the right mood, he might say, “Hello,” or give a nice long wolf whistle to an unsuspecting pedestrian.
Despite his naughty antics, the residents in the area have come to love the bold bird.
“Bart is really cool,” said Mark Bluhm, a Redlands resident who receives daily visits from the raven. “He’s like a big puppy with wings.”
“I would like to get one of my gloves back that he dropped on the roof,” he said with a laugh.
Bart is a wild animal, but he is far more social than the average bird. Many believe he must be a pet or belong to one of the neighbors in some way. He’s a curiosity and a constant source of entertainment on the Redlands.
“We don’t consider him a pet because he’s free, and he has his own life,” said Jeff Geiger, whose Broadway home is at the center of the bird’s flying radius.
Black Bart’s story is actually one of a successful animal rescue.
Two years ago, Geiger and his wife, Bonnie, found Bart and another injured raven while they were motorcycling in the desert. Bart had a large wound near his wing and a damaged talon. The Geigers hoped the birds would heal by keeping them in an outdoor cage at their home.
While one of the birds died, Bart survived, but Geiger knew he had to teach the bird to fend for itself before releasing it back into the wild. He caught live mice in a trap, then let the bird chase the mice on his own, for example.
Within six months Bart was flying with other ravens and birds, hunting his own food, and never returned to the cage again.
But, Black Bart still keeps a close eye on his old pal Jeff. He’s brought him presents, such as packs of cigarettes and gum, and keeps an eye on all of his work in the yard.
“I can’t hardly work outside sometimes,” he said. A few months ago, Bart thought it was pretty funny to steal Jeff’s truck keys and stash them under a shingle on the roof.
“I keep a ladder outside so I can go get stuff,” he said with a laugh.
“When we lose stuff, we look for it in the tailpipes of the cars,” Bonnie added.
Once when Jeff was changing the oil in one of his vehicles, Black Bart swooped down, hopped under the car, and retrieved a corncob he’d hidden under the engine.
Even the postman knows Black Bart. He’s been known to steal mail and peck holes into packages in the neighborhood.
“He’s special,” Jeff said.
He doesn’t like to talk about Bart’s story much, for fear that some people might think he should not have saved the bird’s life.
And, although most of the neighbors to whom Bart has introduced himself profess to love him, Jeff and his neighbors fear there may be some who label him a nuisance.
“We don’t want to see anything happen to him,” Bluhm said. “We love him.”
Last November, the Colorado Division of Wildlife received a couple of complaints from residents in the area who claimed a bird stole their mail.
“I don’t know if that’s the same bird, but we’ve had calls about a bird in that area,” said Ty Smith, district wildlife manager for the Glade Park district, which includes the Redlands.
Ravens are known for their practical jokes, Smith said, adding that stories about the pesky birds date back to Indian folklore.
But, stealing mail and screwdrivers is not something that would put the bird in danger of being euthanized by the DOW, he said.
“If he became aggressive with people, pecking them or attacking, then we’d have to do something,” Smith said.
It is not illegal to feed wild birds, but Smith suggests, as do the Geigers, that the residents on the Redlands use caution when in the bird’s company.
Smith says not to feed the bird by hand, not to get too close, and most importantly, don’t put the bird in a situation where it may feel threatened.
“The biggest thing is to just keep the wild animals wild,” he said.
Recently, Black Bart has been seen gathering nesting materials, more often than not the job of female ravens. The Geigers think they may have misnamed Bart, and perhaps instead should have nicknamed the bird “Crazy Cora.”