John Pilkington's picture

Rolling Raven?

During a walk along the Taf Fechan valley in the Brecon Beacons, my walking partner and I were both surprised by what appeared to be a Raven completing a very rapid "twinkle" roll as it flew past us.

The bird was heading into wind and initially flying with "normal" wing beats. It then folded its wings into its body, perhaps with just the primaries protruding, and rolled very rapidly to the left, through the inverted and back to the upright position, before continuing "normal" flight. Both of us witnessed this manoeuvre (something neither of us had seen before and which a Red Arrows pilot would have been proud of), so I don't think it was imagined.

The manoeuvre was extremely short-lived, so we didn't notice whether it was the wings or the tail that induced and controlled the roll.

There were both Ravens and Carrion Crows in the area, so although we are not sure the rolling bird was actually a Raven, we both presumed so, because we hadn't seen Crows act as aerobatically as Ravens.

We have seen birds (Buzzards) roll inverted to fend off attacks from other birds, but they usually have extended wings and roll relatively slowly. Is this form of rapid roll more common than we had thought?