Page last updated at 10:09 GMT, Wednesday, 22 October 2008 11:09 UK

Ravens return to local woodland

Ravens are members of the crow family which includes jays and magpies

Ravens have returned to a Wiltshire forest more than 100 years after being persecuted to extinction in much of Britain, according to a survey.

The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust (WWT) project shows ravens are living and breeding in Braydon Forest.

The birds were blamed for killing livestock and so were shot, trapped and poisoned and became extinct by 1900 in much of lowland Britain.

The WWT said improved wildlife protection laws had helped the birds.

The WWT project team has spotted ravens in several parts of the woodland which were originally named Ravensroost, Ravenshurst and Ravensbrook.

'Good omen'

Paul Darby, from the WWT, said: "It's easy to miss them unless they call because they can look like crows or rooks at a glance.

"They are big black birds with a four-foot wingspan and a chunky, powerful bill and they give a much deeper sounding call than other corvids.

"We are just delighted that we've got them back in the area.

"Although the bird survey was mainly for birds such as skylark and reed bunting, a few significant raven records were collected too. We definitely regard the raven as a bird of good omen."

A spokeswoman for the RSPB said: "Ravens had been lost from lowland Britain by the end of the 19th Century.

"It's always good news to hear that a hitherto persecuted bird is making a natural return."

According to a Birds of Wiltshire survey, carried out by the Wiltshire Ornithological Society, a pair of ravens came to Wiltshire from Somerset in 1992.

Breeding was confined mostly to southwest Wiltshire and the Savernake area.

The numbers have increased and there are now about 30 to 50 pairs breeding in Wiltshire, mainly nesting in trees.

Ravens are members of the crow family, which includes jays and magpies.

They do not breed until they are several years old and breed very early on in the year, laying eggs in February and fledging in April.

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