Konrad Lorenz - Food-Offering

Desmond Morris: "One of the most fascinating men I ever knew was the Austrian naturalist Konrad Lorenz. His whole life-style seemed to be an animal-infested chaos. Like some kind of modern Noah, he lived surrounded by fish, reptiles, birds and mammals of every shape and colour. There were endless mishaps and it was often from these that Lorenz learned his most valuable lessons.

"For instance, he was out walking with a tame raven one afternoon. The bird was free-flying and, in order to keep it close to him, Lorenz had taken the precaution of filling one of his pockets with small pieces of raw meat. Every so often, he would call to the bird (he was fluent in Raven) and as it approached, would put his hand into the meat-pocket, take out a strip of meat, and feed it to his great, black companion. This procedure meant that, although the raven would zoom off into the sky, it always kept a bright, corvine eye on Konrad's movements as he wandered across the summer fields.

"They continued like this for several hours, with the bird returning regularly to Lorenz's side for a further titbit. As it was a hot day, Lorenz had drunk copiously at lunch-time and now needed to relieve himself. There was nobody about, so he moved near a hedge, undid his trousers, and started to do so. The raven's sharp eye had observed Lorenz undoing his trousers and assumed that he was opening another pocket to extract a fresh piece of meat. Swooping down with a raucous cry, the great bird seized this new piece of meat, clamping down tightly on it with its massive powerful beak. Lorenz let out a roar like a wounded bull and began leaping dementedly about in the corner of the field. The raven was nonplussed by this extraordinary behaviour and could not understand why its human friend was so reluctant to hand over a piece of meat that was so plainly meant for its consumption. Placing its huge feet firmly on Lorenz's body, the bird started to tug fiercely at the stubbornly resistant food-offering, like a blackbird trying to pull an earthworm from a garden lawn. Lorenz claims that he nearly fainted from pain and loss of blood."

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