Quoth the Raven



I’ll admit it. When I’m eyeball to eyeball with an adult raven on a foggy evening, it creeps me out a little bit.

But then, so do half of the people I run into at the midtown Anchorage Walmart.

And yet, like any good macho gangsta, the raven commands a certain respect. One is never too sure about who is on the top of the food chain when a raven is holding his ground near a garbage bag full of fish scraps. He’ll tilt his head and look at you, sizing up the angle he’ll approach your eyeballs as he plans his attack.

In one of the most important pieces of legislation that Sen. Scott Kawasaki has ever authored (Think Local Day being right up there), the Fairbanks freshman senator has proposed to change the State bird from the willow ptarmigan to the common raven.

That glossy black hulk of a bird that crossed the Bering Straits land bridge and has been stalking human encampments in Alaska ever since, that surly bird so iconic in literature and Southeast Alaska Native cosmology, could have a new feather in its cap: Official State Bird.

You might call it the ultimate clever prank on humans by the “Trickster” raven, inserting himself into our very government.

They’re city slickers, most of them. So ubiquitous they are in some places that they are practically pests, dumpster diving as they do. While they can’t tear open a caribou carcass with their beaks, they surely can undo a garbage bag.

When they group together, as they also do quite raucously, they are referred to as an “unkindness” or a “conspiracy” of ravens.

A conspiracy of ravens pecks at a snow berm as the fog grounds the planes at the Juneau International airport on Sunday.

They’re smart. They’re communicative. And, bleh, very few creatures in the natural world want to eat them.

That’s unlike the willow ptarmigan, which is a fat, juicy grouse popular with humans, foxes, wolves, and raptors. The willow ptarmigan boasts that it can change colors with the seasons to better blend and evade the dinner table, and that’s a good trick, something that ravens cannot do. But beyond being camo birds, no one has much kind to say about their good nature.

But should Alaska mess with the state bird, while preparing to look at a $3.2 billion budget ($1.6 billion smaller than last year’s state budget)?  The willow ptarmigan, after all, was voted on by school children in 1955 and has been the official state bird since Statehood. Think of the children.

Senate Bill 28 would vote in the raven and vote out the hapless ptarmigan. It amends Sec. 44.09.060 to read that “The Common Raven (Corus Cora principalis) is the official bird of the state.”

Hop on over to the Must Read Alaska Facebook page and take our poll: Raven or Willow Ptarmigan for official state bird?



    • 100% agree. Nothing – and I mean nothing – should be considered by the Legislature unless and until they pass a budget. No more of this bleeding cash in consecutive special sessions (as they did under Walker) because the loud, obnoxious conspiracy of ravens got distracted by something shiny.

  1. There is a perverse case to be made:
    Ptarmigan quietly sustain themselves off opportunities nature provides, and don’t seem to get in each other’s way – much like Alaskans I remember prior to the infusion of oil money to the state treasury.
    Raven’s sustain themselves by fighting over what someone else has produced – much like too many Alaskans since the infusion of oil money.
    It would be an honest reflection of what we’ve become, but the legislature has more pressing problems to resolve and the recent gubernatorial election indicates that a majority of Alaskans would rather behave like ptarmigans than ravens. (We should encourage the legislature to pay more attention to the recent election and no attention to this bill.)

  2. LOL, wouldn’t using the Raven be cultural appropriation? Just kidding. But really…how much will it cost to change all the pics etc if they change this? What a waste of time and money.

  3. OMG Susan, you stole my thunder. I was thinking the same thing. Just joking of course. The Eagle and the Raven – The Love Birds. Let them be. And, for goodness sakes, lets not traumatize the poor kids (now our elders/peers) that voted in the State bird. It is the House that should be bored Sen. Kawasaki. Yes, the raven matches your hair, but give it time….you are only a freshman Senator. Eventually your locks will match that of the winter Willow Ptarmigan. You will become one and it will be your spirit animal. Now, get to work!

  4. Terms of venery:
    Pack of wolves.
    Pod of whales.
    Troop of monkeys.
    Gaggle of geese.
    A murder of crows.
    A trouble of ravens.

    The trouble is not the the Raven Paradox, by Hempel. Is the trouble Fairbanks voting not enough Republicans, thereby empowering Kenai to stay the venery of Alaskans: Republican they be?
    Say no more.

  5. The state bird as is would be fine. The Raven is a carrion cleaner and garbage pecker. They are all over the state but especially in Southeast Alaska pecking at garbage and dead meat on the beach! Yuk!!!! Leave the State Bird Issue alone. Someone that had the thought to change the birds doesn’t have enough to do.

  6. First, Republican business leaders of Fairbanks – like Craig Compeau and Bill Satterberg – are the ones pitching the change for state bird. There are were quite a few editorials in support of this over the last couple months, including from leading Republicans, and I recommend you read them. This is possibly by request from his Republican constituents. Second, Scott HAS introduced a number of bills that do matter and were shot down for petty politics. For example, check out HB 262 of the 30th Legislature – which would ensure the program for expedited licenses for military spouses is working as it is supposed to, so they can get to work as soon as they’d like upon transferring to Alaska. He reintroduced the bill this year as SB 11. The Republican leadership killed his bill in Senate Finance in April 2018 simply because he was running against Pete, despite bipartisan support of HB 262. He has a long history of good policy introduced, and has passed amendments to reduce government regulation, supports a full Dividend, and is among the more libertarian-minded members of the Legislature. I view his support of a broad-based tax as a way to stabilize oil industry. AND he actually responds to constituents – and him introducing this bill is in direct response to that. I am proud to support Scott as a Republican in Fairbanks.

    • Fantastic! Maybe you can have a chit chat with him about this bird thing. Slip a note into his “carrion” so he has some reading material on his next flight. Have him stick to more important things. Is he being pressured by these “Republican business leaders of Fairbanks” to introduce such nonsense? If so, I find it disturbing that the junior Senator from Fairbanks can be swayed to introduce legislation like this. This could be the test case. If he falls for this, what could be next?

  7. Raven = smart, adaptable, hunter/scavenger. Ptarmigan = victim, victim, victim, dinner.

    R = R. P rhymes with D. Why would there even be a discussion on this website?

    A vote shouldn’t take 5 minutes, another ten to change the photos in the state data base, and that clucking, stupid, always-the-victim bird known to constantly change its colors is toast.

  8. Why would you change from an animal that has Alaska in its name to one that has common in its name. Alaskans are far from common and so is our state bird.

  9. WTH? Last couple years they added a verse to The Alaska State song, and now changing the Bird? Come on people… your here to work,..

  10. Ravens are common in several other States, along with their crow cousins. The reason we have State Flowers and State birds is that they are mostly unique within EACH State. ^^ Mike Prax and those who feel that the ‘patty cake- feel good’ legislation is BS. Just my two bits from the Interior. We’ve got some real stuff to concern ourselves with, and this isn’t one of them.

  11. The largest city in the state is trying to recover from a major earthquake, crime is out of control, and the governor’s proposed budget has a 1.6 billion dollar deficit, but yes, let’s waste legislative time debating over the state bird.

  12. We’ve got out of control crime and budget issues going on and we’re worried about changing the state bird? Get a grip! Ravens are scavengers, sort of like Democrats looking for handouts. They hang out at the dump and in Safeway parking lots, sort of like the homeless. Kawasaki was set up by Craig Compeau for this piece of bs, and now Kawasaki is eating crow. Get back to work….idiots.

  13. 45 years in Alaska and I have never seen a Willow Ptarmigan, so I would vote for the Raven. As far a the legislature is concerned, how long can it take to slash state spending, trash the schools, reduce services and lock every shop lifter in prison for life? They should have plenty of time to vote on birds.

    • I, too, have been in Alaska for 45 years, and I have seen lots of ptarmigan of various species. I have never seen one in Anchorage, but I’ve never seen a wolf, lynx, or several other bird species in the major cities. Like several other animal species, ptarmigans don’t eat trash and prefer to be away from humans and cars. Of course we see ravens all the time because they are scavengers. Any place a single human lives, chances are you’ll see a raven. I oppose the change because it’s a waste of tax dollar money to have to reprint everything. You can’t slash state spending when the state is spending on changing the bird.

  14. Up in SquareBanks, they have Raven Landing, a communal housing complex for retired Democrats and out of work artists. Please don’t insult this bird anymore by debating his character and lack of brains for not flying south after the first freeze-up. Certainly Kawasaki has more important work, like writing this year’s birthday cards to constituents.

    • All the Democrats at Raven Landing love Kawasaki. Pete Kelly was roasted nightly at the Crow Hotel, where Crow soup is served to the Lefties who sport deep Crow Feet. You gotta hand it to Kawasaki. He might not he the smartest Crow at the dumpster, but he understands well that hanging out close to his Momma Crow will help him at the Landing.
      Caw…caw … caw ..wasaki.

    • Don’t forget…with names spelled incorrectly and to constituents that aren’t in his district to include the complimentary “thank you for running and sorry you lost” letters! Let’s not forget the beauty he sent to “Mr. Cean Stevens” after the 2018 primary in Anchorage. For those of you that don’t know, Cean is not a Mr.

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