Page last updated at 12:44 GMT, Monday, 15 February 2010

Donegal golfers 'ravin' and 'teed off' over ball thief

by Nuala McCann

Golfers in Donegal have had enough of a certain ball thief.

The Greencastle Golf Club on the Inishowen Peninsula has received a steady stream of complaints about a large raven swooping down to steal golf balls.

The ball thief is thought to be a large black raven

Billy McCaul, the office manager at the club said golfers believe the thief is a raven. It is the kind of birdie, they'd rather not score.

Initially the ball thief was a source of amusement.

But four months after the first ball was stolen, golfers are becoming fed up with a good game spoiled.

After launching the perfect drive, they are moving forward to discover the ball missing from the green.

Ravens are one of the most intelligent birds in the world. They've been spotted pulling fishing lines out of lakes to steal the fisherman's catch.

They can mimic human voices.

In Germany and Sweden, people believed ravens were the ghosts of dead and murdered people.

Legend has it that the Norse god Odin had a pair which were his eyes and ears.

They can fly upside-down during courting displays.

The collective noun for ravens is an "unkindness".

Ravens are 'neophobic' - they do not like new things or people.

Ravens have a reputation for stealing shiny objects including pebbles and bits of metal.

Mr McCaul said the club management were at a loss as to how to deal with the large bird thief who has become increasingly bold.

Only white balls are stolen - yellow balls are left where they lie. Some people believe that the raven is mistaking the white balls for eggs.

Ravens are very large birds. They have a 4ft wingspan.

In flight, the raven has a diamond-shaped tail. During mating displays, the raven can fly upside down.

Ravens have a unique "honk honk" or "cronk cronk" call which sounds a little like a car horn.

The birds like to nest in fir trees and can be found in woodland areas.

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