Tower of London's ravens flit to a safe new roost

Symbolic birds are put out of foxes' reach

The nation can breathe a sigh of relief. The unkindness of ravens – the traditional collective noun for the birds – at the Tower of London is about to enjoy the kindness of Historic Royal Palaces, in a move designed to improve the birds' accommodation.

Legend has it that when fewer than six birds are present at the Tower, the monarchy and the kingdom will collapse. Last May, that myth came perilously close to being tested when two of the birds were killed by a fox, leaving just six in residence.

Now, plans have been revealed of a new enclosure for the birds which it is claimed will let them roam freely without fear of attack.

The new "modernised" enclosure, which is likely to cost tens of thousands of pounds and which has been in development since the autumn, will be set up on the south lawn by the White Tower.

Commissioned by the independent charity Historic Royal Palaces, it will have more space for the ravens during the day and night and include an amphitheatre to allow the Raven Master, the official responsible for the ravens, to give talks to visitors about caring for the birds.

A spokesman for Historic Royal Palaces said: "Their current accommodation is dated and needs renewal as it is now over 20 years old. The new night enclosure for the ravens has been designed with practicality in mind. This means not only will the ravens themselves have more space, but the Raven Master and his team get better access to the birds."

The birds can freely wander the grounds of the Tower during the day and return to their enclosure at night. But because they have their feathers trimmed they don't fly far.

Some ravens, however, have abandoned their patriotic duties over the years. Grog, a resident for over 20 years, was last seen outside an East End pub in 1981, while George had his services terminated in 1986 after developing an appetite for TV aerials. The oldest raven at the Tower was called Jim Crow, who died in 1928 at the age of 44.

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