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Common Raven

SCIENTIFIC NAMECommon Raven

Corvus corax

CLASSIFICATION

Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Corvidae
Genus: Corvus
Species: corax

SIZE

Length: Male: 24-27 inches
  Female: same
     
Weight: Male: 2 1/2-3 pounds
  Female: same
     
Wingspan: Male: 4-4 1/2 feet
  Female: same

APPEARANCE:

The Raven has long pointed wings with deep, glossy, black plumage, except that its underparts have a greenish or bluish tinge. The beak is long and sharp with the underparts being curved over at the tip. A fringe of coarse feathers, called the goiter, decorates the throat. Note also the wedge shaped tail.

The Raven is the largest of the perching birds. It is distinguished from the crow by its harsh cry and size. Hawk like, the Raven in flight alternates flapping with soaring. It soars on flat wings while the crow’s wings are bent upward.

RANGE/DISTRIBUTION:

The Common Raven, is found throughout Europe, West Asia, the Western United States, Alaska, Arctic Canada, and into Central America.

HABITAT/TERRITORY SIZE:

The Raven likes sage brush and cactus in mountains, deserts, canyons, coastal cliffs and boreal forests.

MIGRATION:

The Raven is a non-migratory bird.

DIET:

Ravens are omnivorous, eating a variety of things including meat, fish, vegetation, fruit, etc. They will eat carrion; and, to the Raven, it makes no difference how long an animal has been dead! They seem to enjoy carrion as much as they enjoy the flesh of recently killed animals. These birds help clean up the environment around us by cleaning up the garbage and filth.

BREEDING INFORMATION:

Ravens mate for life, and a pair will use the same nest each season. They build a large nest on a cliff or sometimes in a tree. Nesting materials are sticks, twigs, cow ribs, rope ends, canvas, moss, seaweed, roots, hay, cow dung, strips of hide, shredded bark, and hair from deer, horses, cows and coyotes.

BEHAVIOR:

Every member of the family Corvidae is noisy and quarrelsome. They will kill small animals for food using their beak and will also use it for defense.

These birds are extremely devoted to each other and their young. Ravens are usually found in family groups composed of the parents and their offspring. When the young are old enough to leave the nest and fend for themselves, they wander off. Their elders, however, remain together.

STATUS:

The Raven is not commonly seen near populated areas like crows, although it is still common in the upper elevation in less populated areas. The Raven’s ability to adapt because of its varied diet has made its situation in the wild more encouraging than other birds.

FOLKLORE AND MYTHS:

Tradition emphasizes that the Raven is a dour and somber bird. The shadow of its somber wings falling across the path of a bride foretells disaster. He is sinister and mysterious, and his coarse croakings through the centuries have been thought prophetic of evil.

Native American and Alaskan folklore often includes Ravens as central characters.

Odin, the chief god of the Norsemen, was attended by two Ravens, who whispered advice in his ears. It was the Raven that Noah sent forth from the Ark. To Elijah, hiding by the brook of Cherith, the Ravens brought food. In Wales, the legendary hero, Owein, was accompanied by an army of Ravens that guarded him from harm.

The Greeks were not unmindful of the Raven’s power, and tradition is behind the Ravens that are kept in the Tower of London.

The pilgrim fathers found Ravens in Massachusetts, but they soon fell into evil repute, for it was discovered that they would attack and kill the newborn lambs and the sickly sheep. The people made war upon them, so today Ravens do not build their nests within the boundaries of that state.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  • “The National Geographic Magazine”, January-June, 1933.
  • “The Little And Ives Complete Book of Science.”
  • Dave Siddon, Oregon Zoo, Show Coordinator

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