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, 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 June 20 on a Maryland birding site. Result?
“I got two ‘Wows,' two ‘Loves’ and two ‘Likes,‘” Smith said. “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,” Smith said.
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.
“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.”
A Sun photographer spotted four ravens flying over the stadium in late June 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, Cincinnati, Denver and San Francisco, pestering players and defecating on crowds. But there’ve been no complaints about ravens.
When football resumes, might the birds stick around?
“I can’t guarantee that they will,” Graff said. “If they can get used to the noise and the people, they might very possibly stay in some nook high up in the stadium and continue to raise their young, year after year. It would be quite a treat to have ravens nesting with Ravens!”
A team official declined comment on the birds’ arrival. Graff, for one, hopes they stay.
“I’m not sure what the ravens would think of the [Ravens'] mascots,” he said of Rise and Conquer, the two birds who aren’t true ravens but relatives from the same corvid (crow) family. Should they ever meet — an unlikely scenario — the newcomers could cause a flap and “try to chase [Rise and Conquer] out of town.”
And what of Poe, the six-foot Raven who rouses the crowd? Not to worry, said Graff: “The human mascot in costume would not be an issue.”
For Smith, who pedals daily past the stadium, discovering the ravens was sweet irony. A civil engineer, he helped erect the structure in 1997.
“I don’t follow football, but I did help build the stadium,” he said. “I’m just glad that some rare birds are using something that I worked on.”