BALTIMORE -- The Ravens aren't yet roosting at M&T Bank Stadium, but the ravens are. Two of the team's feathered namesakes have been seen perched atop a light tower there -- a first, apparently, for the clever birds who, by nature, eschew city life. Yet there the ravens were on June 20, sitting on a metal column 25 feet above seat level on the southeast side of the stadium as bicyclist Eddie Smith passed by.
"I looked up, saw them and thought, 'By golly, those are ravens. This is newsworthy,'" said Smith, 63, a longtime birder from southwest Baltimore. He recognized their rasping call and, camera in hand, photographed the pair, posting the picture on a Maryland birding site. Result?
"I got two 'Wows,' two 'Loves' and two 'Likes,' " said Smith. "If I'd made an incorrect ID, I would have heard about it."
The next day, Smith returned to the site and photographed an apparent fledgling raven balanced on a construction walkway near the light towers. Then, outside the stadium, high up in a nook in a structural support column, he spied two adults, flitting in and out of the cranny as if tending a nest.
"The hole is maybe 150 feet up and unreachable by any mammal. I don't even think you could free climb it," said Smith. That ravens are known cliff nesters suggests they may be raising a brood there, he said -- and on Ravens turf at that. But why downtown, far from their more familiar digs in rugged Western Maryland?
Historically, ravens are wilderness birds, more secretive than their smaller kin the crow, said Kevin Graff, vice president of the Baltimore Bird Club and an expert on their habits.
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"Ravens do like isolated, hard-to-get-to places for raising their young, which is why they favor niches high up on cliffs and other almost inaccessible places," said Graff, 42, of Jarretsville. "But they are spreading east as quarries, high-rise buildings and other man-made places that weren't here before give them new opportunities."
On Friday, a Sun photographer spotted four ravens flying over the stadium and captured one on film.
Ballparks and their networks of girders, ledges, towers and platforms have long been asylums for any number of birds and bats, often to fans' chagrin. In recent years, pigeons, starlings, grackles and gulls have plagued stadiums in Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and Cincinnati, pestering players and defecating on crowds. But there've been no complaints about ravens.