The ravens at the Tower of London are getting restless: because so few people are coming to visit the site because of the coronavirus pandemic, the jet-black birds are getting bored and straying farther from their home on the lawn of the former royal residence.

The curious and clever ravens are an all-important feature of the Tower: a 350-year-old superstition has it that if the Tower of London’s six feathered residents ever leave, the kingdom will fall. It might be a rumour from the reign of King Charles II, but the keepers today still aren’t taking any chances. Six ravens, plus one extra just to be safe, are kept on site in an aviary but are free to roam the premises during the day. The birds – named Jubilee, Harris, Gripp, Rocky, Erin, Poppy and Merlina – are looked after by the in-house ravenmaster and have their feathers trimmed to encourage them to stay nearby but are still able to fly.

UK, England, London, Tower of London
Tower of London © Tetra Images / Getty Images

The Tower of London, the UK’s most popular paid attraction, reopened in mid-July after being closed since 20 March, but not many travellers have returned. In the peak summer months, more than 15,000 people would visit, but because of the pandemic, the numbers have slumped to fewer than 800 a day. The ravens have got lonely and bored and have missed sneaking off with a piece of a visitor’s lunch, and the ravenmasters have tried to keep them entertained with small footballs and squeaky dog toys. 

In late June, it was revealed that the Tower of London’s iconic Beefeaters could be laid off because the charity that manages the site is facing a huge shortfall in funding because of the coronavirus pandemic and the months-long closure of the site.

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