As It Happens

Checking in with Merlyn Williams, the raven whisperer of Yellowknife

Yellowknife's Merlyn Williams has talked to ravens for decades but he is particularly fond of a loyal bird named Raymond who visits the deck at his home.
A screenshot of Raymond the Raven, taken from one of Merlyn Williams' videos. (YouTube/CBC)

They call him the raven whisperer.

For four decades, Yellowknife's Merlyn Williams has been befriending and holding conversations with the birds, who visit the deck at his home. But one raven, Raymond, has been particularly loyal.

It was Raymond, featured in one of Williams' YouTube videos, that caught the world's attention two years ago.

"He used to come by every day," Williams tells As It Happens guest host Helen Mann. "Not now. He's getting older now and he's not as tame as he used to be. He will still eat out of my hand, but he's more cautious."

Merlyn Williams at his home in Yellowknife. (CBC)

Williams first met Raymond seven years ago when he spotted the "squawking" raven perched on his roof.

"He sounded as if he was scolding me but I said to Joyce, my wife, I said, 'Joycie, bring out a piece of bread, love, let's see what this raven's going to do with it,'" Williams explains.

Raymond took the bread from Williams' hand and years later their bond is still strong. Although now, Raymond likes bacon and beer, not just bread.
"At one time he used to drink my beer out of my glass," Williams explains. "He might have a drinking problem!"

Williams has learned to decipher the various audible clicks, chirps and squawks the ravens use to express emotions. In this way, Williams says he is able to hold conversations with the birds.

"They can come out with some sounds you'd never think a bird could ever make and it comes as if it comes from the bottom of the throat," Williams says.

Williams adds that Raymond also recognizes his voice and occasionally will even try to mimic his distinct laugh.

Despite the cold weather, Williams says Raymond is doing well but admits that recently he is a bit distracted.

"He's got a girlfriend," Williams explains. "I had a few words with her and I cautioned her that if, ya know, if you're going to bond with him be careful. I said, 'He's got a temper and he can be very, very stubborn sometimes!"


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