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Longleat's new dark secret

(March 27, 2010)
LONGLEAT has long been famous for its wildlife park but in one way it is now outdoing the Tower of London as an attraction.
The tower, arguably Britain's greatest tourist attraction, has  a  flock of 12 domesticated ravens - but Longleat is now able to offer the real thing in abundance.
ravenAccording to the Wiltshire Ornithological Society the estate is now a major attraction for these huge black birds.
Earlier this month 40 ravens were seen at the wolf enclosure during feeding time, intent of eating up the scraps the wolves leave behind.
The arrival of the raven in such huge numbers is nothing short of remarkable.
Until 1992, when a pair of ravens set up home in the Mere area, the birds had been absent as breeding birds from Wiltshire for almost a century.
Before Victorian times they were widespread with many villages having a 'raven tree' which would be the local breeding site.
''I knew that ravens were present in the Longleat area as I often heard the weird 'croink croink' noise they make when I have been walking at Heaven's Gate and, on occasion, I've seen and heard them flying over Warminster,'' said Steve Dancey.
''But to have them in such numbers is unusual and I'm surprise that Lord Bath, who is the master when it comes to publicity, hasn't made more of his new winged guests.''
RSPB The raven is a big black bird, a member of the crow family. It is massive, bigger than a buzzard. It is all black with a large bill, and long wings. In flight, it shows a diamond-shaped tail. It breeds in the west and north only. Most birds are residents, but some birds, especially non-breeders and young birds wander from their breeding areas but do not travel far.

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