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Can You Tell A Raven From A Crow?
Posted on Tuesday, June 14, 2011 by eNature
Raven showing
Raven showing "shaggy" throat feathers.
© NPS
American Crow, note smaller bill than Common Raven's
American Crow, note smaller bill than Common Raven's
© USGS

Ravens are remarkable birds.  And while not dismissing their cousin crows as the boring wallflowers of the party, ravens have a story of their own that’s worth knowing.

Avian Royalty
Inside the Tower of London, a man called the Yeoman Raven Master watches over a flock of all-black birds. The same was true back in the 1600s when the tradition started. It arose after a soothsayer predicted that the British monarchy would fall if the ravens disappeared.

But even without their caretaker, these birds probably would have survived.

World Travelers
For one thing, ravens are surprisingly adaptable to differing types of habitat. When winter descends upon northern Alaska and other animals depart, ravens remain to feed, frolic, and breed in the subzero chill. At the opposite extreme, ravens will hunt snakes even in the dizzying summertime heat of a place like Death Valley. Indeed, they’re one of the most widely distributed birds in the entire world.

Fine Diners
They’re also one of the most opportunistic. In fact, some people call them wolf-birds because of their close association with wolves, bears, coyotes, and killer whales, the hunters ravens depend upon for kills to scavenge. But ravens do more than pick at the remains of dead animals. Scientists believe that ravens work actively to direct predators to potential prey. With appetites as adaptable as their lifestyles, ravens will eat anything from fur seals to french fries and thrive.

Not Just Pretty Faces
And ravens are smart. Researchers such as Bernd Heinrich have tested raven intelligence with astounding results. For example, a raven, given a dozen crackers, will use one as a tray, with other crackers stacked and carried carefully upon it.

And when confronted with multiple donuts, a raven will pass its beak through the hole of one and then grab the edge of another—a perfect solution to the two-donut, one-beak problem.

Talented Performers
And did we mention that ravens can mimic human speech as well as parrots?  Ravens are quite vocal with as many as 30 categories of vocalization recorded, many used for social interaction including alarm calls, chase calls, and flight calls. 

Ravens also engage in play. Juvenile Common Ravens have been observed sliding down snowbanks, apparently just for fun.

Ravens vs. Crows
Yet despite their intelligence, ravens have not been able to outwit man. Confused with agriculture pests like crows and wrongly suspected in livestock depredation, ravens have suffered much at the hands of varmint shooters. Once prevalent in New England, ravens were locally exterminated and only recently have begun a return to the upper Northeast.

A discriminating birder should have no trouble distinguishing a raven from a crow. Look for the raven’s larger size and heavier bill. The feather tufts at the neck and wedge-shaped tail feathers in flight also differentiate it from a crow. So will its distinctive vocalizations, which include an assortment of low quorks, knocks, and mumbles.

Have you had an encounter with a raven in the wild—or perhaps at the Tower of London?

We always enjoy hearing stories, so feel free to share below.

Learn more about the Common Raven and hear its call. »

And the American Crow is a fascinating bird in its own right. »

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Comments

Awesome!  We are always debating raven or crow if we don’t know about the area we are in.  Thanks for this great article.  We’ll be looking for those neck throat feathers!

Posted by Robin on 6/14

I’m wild abut crows and any info you could send would be much appreciated, so far most material I come across is mostly untrue folklore Thank-You MaryAnn

Posted by Mary Ann Bernardi on 6/14

I’ve had the same pair of ravens nesting in very tall pine trees in southern california (near the inland mountains) on my property for over 10 years. We have seen from 2 to 6 babies every year. We watch as the parents teach them to fly and be “birds”. We watch as they teach them to hunt, they actually hunt small mammals like ground squirels, rabbits and gophers. They chase off the bobcats and coyotes by swooping down and “yelling” at them. We have had to call in a crane to free one baby hanging upside down (75 feet up) by the foot from being tangled in some rope that they used for nesting material(along with sticks, horse hair and an occasional plastic bag). I had one horse that would let them sit on the top of their butt and pull out the winter coat they were shedding to use in their nest - that was amazing! When its time for the babies to go the male runs them off by pecking them on the head! We have seem some not make it, but we have seen probably 40 that have and are very honored that “our” ravens let us be witness to such greatness.

Posted by pam on 6/14

My husband came up with an easy to remember phrase for distinguishing crows and ravens by their tails in flight: Round raven, square crow.

Posted by Sally Price on 6/14

I had a pet raven as a youth named Studebaker Hawk.  I have never had a more amusing, entertaining, or personable pet!  Anything shiny that (literally) wasn’t nailed down was hers by divine right, whether you agreed or not. 

Our family has Studebaker Hawk stories for daaaaays—and she could say “hello” and “nevermore”!

Posted by j! on 6/14

Great and timely information, we were recently haveing a discussion on this.  It would be a great help though to have included a picture of a crow for visual identification of the differences.

Posted by Sue on 6/14

We live in Northern Ontario, Canada, and my Mother looooves her Ravens.
We have quite a few that come around often, and two very large birds in particular that sit in the tall pine trees overlooking the house (this is how she know’s they’re hungry. Yes that’s right, she saves all the scraps and then some for her Ravens. (Some days they’d get fed before the rest of us). But I think they’re fantastic birds, and I don’t mind them at all. For some reason when you’re alone and a Raven is close by you don’t quite feel alone, as if they’re smart enough to know they’re sharing the peace with you.

Posted by Sarah on 6/14

Mary Ann Bernardi
Hi Mary Ann.  Check with the State of Alaska.  The Raven is a an honored bird by the Native Indians.  There should be a lot about the Raven in their archives.

Posted by Wendy on 6/14

My wife and I were visiting Arches National Park on kind of slow day when we came upon a Raven in one of the parking lots. It walked right up to the car and just stared at us while making little noises.  I was snacking on a bag of Fritos, so I tossed the Raven one.  He was hooked. Wasn’t leaving until we finished the bag. We tour a lot of the Western parks and see Ravens all the time. A very handsome bird

Posted by Duane Severt on 6/14

I have a Raven that comes to my big saucer “birdbath” with food items that he/she gets from who knows where. Apparently dipping the food in the water is desirable in some way and this practice has made it necessary for me to change the water quite frequently. This bird is so big that when I go to look at it, I feel like it’s going to speak to me. So far it hasn’t.

Posted by Jim on 6/14

We had a pet “crow” years ago in Kansas.  It was injured and we took it in till it was well.  It stayed around and followed on the ground and in the air, even followed the car at times.  Unfortunately, some hateful neighbor children shot it with a bebe gun.  I suppose it was really a raven.

I was told the opposite about the tails, that squared off tails were crow’s and the fan shaped were ravens.  Can you verify which is which, please?enough31

Posted by Carole on 6/14

I love crows and ravens.  They are so intelligent.  Once on a visit to the Living Desert in Carlsbad New Mexico, I met a desert raven who had been injured and was being rehabilitated in a large cage.  He picked up one of his feathers, walked over to where I was standing and actually handed the feather to me through the cage.  I still have that feather today.

Posted by Debbie on 6/14

Since DDT was banned I see all ssorts of birds coming back to San Francisco. We have a mustitde of Crows, Ravens and even Mockingbirds.  When I first moved here in 1966 I never saw any of these then.  having grown up in Texas The sight of these birdes takes me back to my childhood.  And to think Some people have had the gall to say that DDT was not at fault for the decimation of the bird population.

Posted by Dennis on 6/14

I’m in northeast Vermont and live on a Class II wetlands. I spend as much time as possible watching the deer, red-winged blackbirds, bear, moose, coyote, beaver and all there. One winter I looked out and there were two huge black birds rolling in the snow. They twisted their bodies back and forth just like a dog would when it rolls on its back. I had no idea what they were, but another teacher gave me Heinrich’s book and I learned they were ravens. I have since read every one of Heinrich’s books that I can find. I just wish I could experience more raven sightings.

Posted by Andree on 6/14

Interesting! I hope that everyone had a great weekend,is having a great week and I hope that they have another great weekend,plus a great Father’s Day! That goes for last year and all the other years that I’ve missed.

Posted by Mike on 6/14

Raven’s tails are NOT round, they are fanned (more circular). Their wing feathers are also different (more visible “fingers” with greater distance between the feathers.

Posted by Megan on 6/14

An excellent book on crows and ravens is The American Crow and the Common Raven,which includes a scientific study of crow families in a remote area in Florida.  I did not realize that crows lived in groups, I had always thought of them as solitary birds.

Posted by Dale on 6/14

I live in San Francisco, CA.  One of the most common species of birds in my neighborhood is the raven.  Ravens here (about two miles from Ocean Beach “as the raven flies” and almost straight inland from the SF Zoo) are not very big, but are very noticeable as the most boisterous and active of the birds, always clucking, croaking and flying acrobatically in the winds and coastal fogs. 

I have done some research into the Tower of London tradition and, the way I read it, it’s a matter of the crown falling if it stops feeding the ravens.  Since traitors and criminals were left on display after executions and served as raven food, it takes on a more stark warning than the current cute practice of caring for the ravens implies.

Posted by Sebastian on 6/14

Up here in bear country, on the edge of the quite civilized District of North Vancouver, crows fill the air.  One of the duties they have taken on is the accompanying of bears as they move through the forests and down in to the residential area, feeding on the late summer berry bushes and fruit trees in the back gardens along the way to the town transfer station.  The raucous chorus lets the burgers of the town and other animal species know that bears are on the prowl.  Except for the loss of a few pieces of fruit a year, we have NEVER had a bad experience with the bears in the 30 years we have lived here.

Posted by Martha BArker on 6/14

A friend and I were kayaking on the West coast of Vancouver Island in Barkley sound. We were alone on an Island campsite and I had warned my friend not to leave anything out because the crows on the Island were crafty opportunists. We were sitting by the campfire at dusk on the beach. From the bushes behind us came a perfectly clear high pitched voice saying softly, over and over, the word “mom, mom”. It was chilling because the Island is small and we were sure, after a recent hike, that we were the only ones there. I told my friend that it was probably a crow but her motherly instinct kicked in and we had to look. Moments after leaving the campsite to explore, guess who showed up looking for food? Crows be smart.

Posted by Kelly on 6/14

One of the very best photos I’ve ever taken is of a raven flying in front of El Capitan in Yosemite. You can see it in the first row on this page:
http://www.enlightphoto.com/LANDSCAPE/Landscape_portfolio-01.html

Posted by Gary Crabbe on 6/14

When I lived in Northern Ontario, I would walk to work and see the ravens out along the street on garbage day(Wednesdays). The truck use to turn around at the end of the street. When my neighbour heard the truck backing up, he would remember it’s garbage day and come running out with his garbage.  One Tuesday morning I thought I heard the sound of the truck backing up, I looked around only to discover it was coming from a raven up in the tree!!

Posted by Kim on 6/14

we have alot of them in the Muskoka, Parrysound region of Ontario in Canada. it is the beek that gives them away,  that and their size. remarkable creatures and obviously more complicated and intelligent than humans give them credit for. thanks for the article.

Posted by o1 on 6/14

I still am not sure which ones ours are here in Elk Grove Ca.

Posted by Tom Brown on 6/14

Nice. Birds are my favorite animals, and now ravens are my favorite bird.

Posted by First Knight on 6/14

Many years ago, when I was a young bride, (I’m 80 now)I didn’t have a clothes dryer, so I hung the clothes outside on a clothesline.  I put the laundry in a basket and the clothespins in a bucket.  I would pick up a garment to hang up and then pick up a couple of clothespins.  One day, a raven (or a crow, I’m not sure) swooped down and sat on the edge of the bucket.  I was a little afraid at first, but pretty soon I could see that he was friendly. I went on with my work, and after a while he reached in the bucket and handed me (or maybe I should say he beaked me) a clothespin. He continued to give me clothespins until I finished and every time I came out to hang up clothes he swooped down from someplace and handed me clothespins.  One day he didn’t come and I heard that he had frightened some children and the police had shot him.  What a shame!.

Posted by Virginia Lee on 6/14

Fantastic book!  One of my favorites!

http://www.amazon.com/Company-Crows-Ravens-John-Marzluff/dp/0300100760

Posted by MARY on 6/14

When I was visting Death Valley,I stopped at the park consession stand. I watched as a raven waiting in ambush stold a concession stand sandwitch from a male toddler (maybe 5 years old) walking out the door of the concession stand. The child cried, and the parents (in frustration)spanked the child. I still reflect on the intelligence levels of the parties involved.

Posted by Phil Buchanan on 6/14

we have a ravens nest on our lake near Parrysound, you would not believe the size of the sticks it uses to build the nest. it is on a shear rock face about 20 meters or 25 to 30 feet off the water. the parents constantly see what the nestlings are up to, and spend time distracting predators and feeding their young.

Posted by o1 on 6/14

We have black birds down here in SW Florida that the locals call Grackles.  They look and sound similar to crows, and are great scavengers in all the supermarket and fast food parking lots.  Are these also a member of the Raven-Crow family?

Posted by Bud Gramer on 6/14

Crows are killers.  On a recent visit to a park a group of robins had a young fledgling that was not yet a skilled flier among them. A crow singled out the young bird, attacking it repeatedly.  By the time I was able to get to the scene, it was too late.  The young robin died in my hand.
I am a birder, but will cross crows permanently off my interest—and conservation—list.

Posted by Francine on 6/14

Grackles are of the Icteridae family, as are other blackbirds; ravens & crows are in the Corvidae family, along with jays.
  I love crows!—filmed one in a pine tree at eye level off my balcony. He brought a crumpled up silver candy wrapper to the tree, placed it on a branch, carefully upwrapped it using both feet and his beak, then smoothed it out flat and proceeded to pick and lick off the bits of candy left on the wrapper. He then balled it back up and flew off with it—the snack now a shiny trophy to store away!

Posted by jill on 6/14

I am not sure if this was a Crow or a Raven but when I lived in far east Iowa, we had dogs in our yard.  One of them was barking at something and then stopped.  From the tree I heard this bark, bark bark….....a Crow or a Raven was imitating the dog!  Never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen and heard it.

Posted by Elaine on 6/14

NPR did a fascinating piece on crows’ ability to recognize humans (and humans’ difficulty recognizing them).  It’s at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106826971

Posted by CJ on 6/14

In my ramblings in the Dunbar Creek watershed of southwestern Pennsylvania I have had many encounters with ravens.  My most memorable was as I walked a ridge top jeep trail on a 90 degree plus day.  I noticed a shadow crossing back and forth along my path.  I looked up to see a pair of turkey vultures, circling less than 50 feet above me.  I was tired, but I didn’t think I could be mistaken for carion.  Still, it really gave me an uneasy feeling.  As I continued, with my escorts along the ridge, we crossed into the territory of a family of ravens.  The ravens made some warning croaks and then one by one appeard, crossing the valley from the west.  Soon there were two adults and three youngsters high above both me and the vultures.  For some reason, I stopped and looked up, just in time to see one of the adults attack one of the vultures with the other adult going after the other one a moment later.  The vultures protested, and began to swoop down the mountain slope, just above the trees. That was the signal for the entire family to enter persuit, with the youngsters worrying and the adults attacking till the vultures crossed the valley and left the teritory of the raven family.  Then, to my surprise, the ravens returned, flew one or two circles above me squawking and croaking. Then they pearched in a dead oak tree just a short distance ahead of me along the road.  I watched them and thanked them for their courteous service.  Then turned around and headed home

Posted by Gary W. Sherwin on 6/14

There was a eucalyptus grove beside my house in Beaumont, CA where a flock of crows roosted. One sounded quite hoarse; I got my binocs and discovered it was actually a parrot! The bird was nearly black (from smog & dirt? or to fit in?) and had lived with the crow flock for more than 20 years at the time I saw it. What a kick!

Posted by Kassandra on 6/14

Does anyone have specific info about the overlapping of crow/ raven territory? I’m on the south side of the Laguna in Sebastopol, CA, and feels like we only have crows here, although occasionally I see a big, shaggy guy. The main place I’ve seen ravens (for sure) has been inn he uplands (ridge above Cazadero and up at Geysers, for example).  Isn’t it great how many people loves corvids?!!!

Posted by Suzanne on 6/14

I got to see the Ravens at the Tower of London.  Let me tell you, the keeper has a nice job, but I would find it stressful - if the birds would ever leave.

Posted by Mary on 6/14

We ran a little store in the middle of nowhere in West Tx.  I traded a rancher’s boy 2 slushes for a baby raven.  I raised him and marvelled at his keen sense of humor and intelligence. He was raised with a baby angora goat and a green easter chick.  When the chick became a rooster with long flowy tail feathers, the raven would grab onto the feathers and “ski” behind the rooster as the rooster tried to lose his mischievous friend. He’d land on open car doors and peek inside, poke his heavy beak into half-emptied soda cans to drink its contents, try to fly with an empty ice bag and fall to the ground when it filled with air.  I watched him hop sideways up to where a little girl was walking away with a tootsie roll in her hand, deftly snatch the candy and fly off, without harming the child.  He’d steal anything shiney and poke it in whatever hole he could find. He was found dead at the bottom of a power pole, possibly having taken a metal object where it made contact with a live wire and electrocuted him.  He was free to come and go but would always come when called.  He never ceased to amaze and entertain.  I still miss him 30 years later.  Awesome birds!  I’d raise another one in heartbeat.

Posted by Robin on 6/14

I am a swimming pool maintenance person in Las Vegas, Nevada. I take care of a couple of pools at Anthem Country Club which overlook the valley and thus are built on top of a hill. Every year, some very large Ravens nest in a few caves that are in the face of sheer dropoffs from the hills. There are families of Ravens living in these caves, and they commonly feed on rabbits, rats, pigeons, snakes, and lizards. I am always removing body parts of their victims from the pools edge. They are a menace to me as I have to clean up after them. When they hunt, they will either circle, or just attack from a position they were stationary on. A rabbit doesn’t stand a chance!

Posted by Bob Steffen on 6/14

George RR Martin makesuseof ravensextensively in his saga A Song ofIce and Fire.  (The first book, A Game of Thrones, isenjoying great success on HBO now.)  Before reading this article on ravens I hadn’t realized how well Martin had researched the bird. I guess I assumed he had made up some ofthe behaviours and abilities the ravens display in the books.
AS todistinguishing ravens and crows, inthe past I was taught to look at relative head size.  This is the first time the beak length has been singled out.

Posted by JJ Demauro on 6/14

Love the article.  When I was in Wildwood, NJ; my boyfriend & I were in the car & I saw a family w/ two children and a crow with a bag tied around her foot.  I was out of the car & yelled get away from that bird!  My sweater was immediatley off and wrapped the bird in my arms. My boyfriend removed the bag and we let it go.  Whenever I’m mad at him I remember that because he was a nervous wreck.  I also think that Francine who labeled crows as killers missed the class on “Pecking Order” in grade school.

Posted by Diane on 6/15

Ravens were a common motif on Viking war party banners, partly because of their association with Odin, whose two ravens flew around the world to bring news back to him.  I’d assume they were also associated with war because they were known to follow armies which they could be sure would provide them with plenty of dead bodies for food.

Posted by birdy on 6/15

Odin’s crows were Hugin & Munin (Thought & Memory) The flew off to see everything and reported back to Odin.

Posted by Diane on 6/15

I recall seeing a program on PBS that was discussing the relative intelligence of animals. What really stuck in my mind was watching an experiment with a crow and a peanut. The peanut was only accessible from above and was attached to a perch by a string. The crow jumped below the perch and tried to stretch up. It tried jumping. Neither resulted in the ability to attain the nut. So, the crafty bird flew up to the perch and pulled the string up with its bill and then held the string in place with its toes. It continued this process until the nut was on the perch. Then he/she pulled the string off the peanut, broke into the shell and devoured the contents. They also showed that crows will fashion tools and use them as implements. Pretty impressive birds!

I also have read that native Alaskans revere ravens and that they play a very important role in their mythology and current beliefs.

Posted by Melissa P on 6/15

P.S. to Mary - the ravens will never leave the Tower. Their wings are clipped.

Posted by Melissa P on 6/15

I’m in Sebastopol too, we have mostly crows, but Ragel ranch has Ravens. I lived in Cazadero for a time and we had Ravens there!

My neighbor and I realized some of their language and began imitating them by answering their calls to each other.  What hoot!  They both came down to the lower branches and yelled at us for messing up their routine! But they were our neighbors and we saw them, and talked to them every day and they would always let us know when they were there.

They make rounds of their territory each morning and evening.  One of the pair will fly ahead to the next checkpoint and cluck-cluck-cluck-cluck-cluck, and then caw-caw-caw-caw.  Now the other flies ahead to the next point and does the same thing, only this time he caws one more time or one less.  So when we heard the signal, we would respond while the other one was in flight!  That would piss them off and bring them to us right away!

Posted by Deefburger on 6/15

I have been fascinated by ravens and crows since a young child. What really speaks to me, with crows at least, (don’t know if Ravens behave similarly) is that they live in large family units and there are often older siblings from the same pair helping to raise the newest offspring.

As to ravens and crows being killers, well, so are cuddly house cats and our beloved pooches. But ravens do it because they have to eat and feed their chicks. It’s all part of nature.

Posted by Margaret on 6/15

I have six Raven’s coming in the morning for the peanuts and bird’S seads, they know mee, last week a man was talking to mee in my driveway the Raven fly-over us, the man step back and on the second flight of the bird the man just went is way whit-out a word, this was weird, it is the first time in five or six years this happens.

Posted by Nasha Poulin on 6/15

One of my favorite photos was taken in Cloverdale, CA as the participants lined up for the yearly parade there. With all of the noise and excitement going on and the floats and other submissions momentarily cordoned off and lined up in order, one lone Crow stood patiently on the street facing them all. His curiosity was apparent and he was truly dwarfed next to all of the large vehicles he faced!

Posted by Linda on 6/15

I live and work in eastern CT in a rural area. My coworkers and I noticed a group of about 5 ravens frequenting our place of employment, appearing in late winter. I knew they were ravens and was surprised since I’ve lived here all my life and never seen one in southern New England. I had to point out what I thought were obvious differences between the ravens and crows before my friends were convinced. They thought I was silly and prone to fantasy when I told them Ravens can talk! I enjoyed this article very much, and plan on showing it around to prove I’m not a kook! Our ravens here are absolutely stunning, large and healthy. They are the blackest black I’ve ever seen, it’s almost as if they absorb light without reflecting it. I’m so happy to be able to see these stunning birds here in my home state. Thanks for the article!

Posted by Melody on 6/15

I live at the north end of the Long Beach Peninsula in WA state. Last summer as I was walking on the beach I saw a raven tossing sand onto something, then it put a piece of seagrass on it. As I walked over to see what it buried the raven hopped away but kept watching me.
It had buried a bit of bird wing. I turned to the raven and said it would be gone by the next tide. The raven cocked it’s head and looked at me. Then it hopped toward a pile of sand, tossed sand and vegetation, pulled at something, hopped sideways and looked at me. I walked over and found another carrion cache. Raven then went toward the dunes and repeated the behavior. I found yet another cache.
Raven looked at me again with head cocked, then flew up the beach to continue caching for another day.
I felt a bit foolish to doubt Raven’s knowledge of its environment. And a bit creeped out.
Francine, everybody has to eat. Do you know where your food comes from?

Posted by patty on 6/15

I used to take pot shots at the ravens here on the Humboldt County coast.  They would swoop in and devastate a flock of baby chicks.  One raven taunts the mother hen, who attacks to save her babies lives. Then the raven’s hunting partner swoops in to pick up a vulnerable chick. One after the other.  Its horrible to watch.  We have since learned how to pen up the little chicken brood and still give them grazing room.  We give the ravens the questionable eggs. Every body seems pretty happy with the arraignment. I love the intelligence of the ravens and listening to their varied songs - especially when they talk to their young in the evening.
Patty, thank you for your story!

Posted by Evelyn Wiebe-Anderson on 6/15

I watched “The Wedding” of Kate and William and one of the newscasters talked to an official keeper of the grounds about the ravens and the story that they must be kept there.  Turns out their wings are clipped so they cannot leave.

Posted by Charlotte on 6/15

I was cleaning out the horse waterer and found a piece of white american cheese with some turkey lunch meat on it. I suppose it was being washed and fell to the bottom. Another time I found pieces of fish.

Posted by jan on 6/15

Best book on the subject: http://www.amazon.com/Mind-Raven-Investigations-Adventures-Wolf-Birds/dp/0060930632

the author is mentioned in the above story, Bernd Heinrich.

Posted by J on 6/15

I’m up in Tahoe, and never used to see ravens as a kid.  Now they are quite common year-round.  One winter I counted over 30 flying to their evening roost.

Posted by Jh on 6/15

Just got back from a trip to Zion National Park and The north rim of the Grand Canyon - saw a bunch, couldn’t mistake their larger size.

Posted by Ken F. on 6/16

Ravens eat baby desert tortoises (http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=160). They empty out garbage cans if they can get the lids open. They are evilly smart. And people are responsible for their population explosion here in the Mojave Desert.

Posted by PK on 6/16

Dear PK,
Unfortunately you are right, humans are responsible for a great many of the problems facing our planet. In most cases, developing the wilderness decreases wildlife population, but in the case of the Mohave Desert, people and their garbage from homes and businesses attract the raven. Here in CT there are places 80 miles from the ocean that have serious seagull infestations. It’s not the animals’ fault we push them out of one environment and into another. It’s all about survival, and humans are the biggest contributors to the demise of wildlife habitats. Here is a quote from the article you linked to:

“Species like ravens that have more than one pattern of predation can put their prey at a greater threat of extinction,” said Boarman. “We cannot say for certain that ravens have contributed to tortoise declines in our study area, but abundant predators like these are capable of suppressing population growth and may inhibit the recovery of the threatened desert tortoise.”
Ravens are the prime suspect preying on these little endangered critters, but it’s us who put them in the position of having to relocate in the first place. I wish more people cared, and in this situation, implementing a law that all trash must be secured could help alot. On the east coast, raccoons and gulls are very smart and difficult to deter. But it can be done if people are vigilant. It’s up to us, and always has been smile

Posted by Melody on 6/16

I was waiting in the car for my husband to return from the ATM machine. It was the dead of winter with snow on the ground and covering nearby roof tops. With loud, rowdy calls and much wing flapping, a small group of ravens landed on a peaked roof nearby. One ungainly fellow slid down the roof slope, flapping his wings and calling out to his buds. At the bottom he unfolded his wings and hopped-flew to the top of the roof. After much head-turning and obvious speculation, the bird hopped off onto the down slope, slid to the bottom, and flew once again to the roof top. His friend a couple of ravens down had been watching what his pal was up to and decided to give it a try. With a short hop he, too, was sliding, twisting and flapping his own way down the slope.

Posted by Carole Sheffield on 6/16

We have photos of ravens sitting on top of the packs in the back of snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park.

Our guide told us that ravens know how to open the first aid kits, take out only the gauze, and fly off.

That same winter, we were in Big Sky. We came upon around 20 ravens. They were dumpster-diving. All but one were watching. The “diver” was digging through the dumpster, pulling up goodies.

Ravens are, in my opinion, the geniuses of the birdie family. I love my NJ hummingbirds, as well as all other birds. However, the ravens are AWESOME!

Posted by maria on 6/16

I would love to see an article with pictures helping us to distinguish all these black birds.  Everytime I say “Oh, look! Crows!” somebody says “No those are grackels!  I have maybe seen some ravens.  Are they bigger?  what are blackbirds?  Little?  I know red wing grosbills.  Is that the same as a red wing black bird?

Posted by Barbara Bernhardt on 6/16

Name aside….
I’ve seen Ravens using sticks to dig out lizards from rock piles.
When the grass seed farmers in central Oregon burn their fields post-harvest, the Ravens come and feed on the dead rodents.  As a joke one year, I sent out a picture of a blank black piece of paper to friends, labeling it as a picture showing “Ravens feeding on charred rodents in burned grass seed stubble”.  Some of my friends asked for better resolution, and others actually claimed to distinguish birds within the black background.  I guess some people see what they want…..  Later, I sent out an actual and good picture, showing the feeding by the large black birds on the charred stubble.  If you want copies of either, reply to fcrowe@sisna.com

Posted by Fred Crowe on 6/16

Fred, that is hilarious!

Posted by Elaine on 6/16

The best way to ID birds is a good field guide. Go to your library,and find a book by the Audubon Society or Peterson Guide or Sibley. Check out a bunch, decide which one(s) you like best and buy it/them. Amazon has many second hand books for very good prices, check your local second hand bookstores, or spring for a new one.
I write when & where I see the birds in the book. It brings back memories of the trips, vacations, birds…
Use your library, you have probably already paid for it with you taxes, it is a good resource for any info you might need. Most librarians are more than happy to help you find stuff. Many have magazines and newspapers too so you don’t have to buy them then recycle them. You might meet other local birders who can help you get started!
OK, I’m off my soap box.

Posted by Patty on 6/16

Please don’t put down crows. I rehab them and try to tell people what the crows’ jobs are out in the wild to help keep nature in balance.  Crows are as maligned at wolfs are.  People need to understand crows. They eat a lot of bugs and insects, mice, rats, ground squirrels, our garbage, dead things, and they know how to use tools and they are very family oriented and take care of each other. (Ravens, when the find a mate at around 3 years old become somewhat solitary.) I rehab ravens also, but I love crows most.

Posted by Nancy Haydock on 6/16

Crows are nest robbers but hawks and owls rob crows’ nests.  Remember that every body is somebody’s lunch.

Posted by Nancy Haydock on 6/16

Among the living trees in the backyards behind my house were two dead trees, just tall trunks.  Parent crows came and placed their half grown young ones on the tall dead tree stumps.  Then the lessons began:  one was how to fly away from an upside down position in a living tree, repeated again and again by both parents.  Lesson number two:  how to mob and molest a mother squirrel (it was June) out showing her young one how to negotiate backyard fences.  They knew the mom would fight back to defend her baby, so the parents kept going after her to show the youngsters (again avid watchers) how to attack an animal that’s defending itself.  No blood was shed, it was a lesson after all, not a hunt for food.  I’ve also seen the crow assigned to watch out over the other ones, to sound the alarm, panic after hours of sitting on a branch while it was snowing. It cried, shook itself and flew away from its station.  And I’ve seen a vast meeting of crows on a radio tower, three hundred or so crows all together.  Some visited friends on perches above or below theirs;  the youngsters played tag, flying out, chasing each other.  Crows are great!

Why does Louise Erdrich have one on her head in a photo I have?  It must be her pet.

Posted by Donna Lazarus on 6/16

Donna,
As I understand it, the ‘teenager boys’ (first hatched) are the babysitters and the best ones get the girl!  The parents choose him by his kid~watching abilities and suggest to their daughter, ‘he’s the one!’

Posted by marybird on 6/16

The Raven is one of my favorite birds. I do know the differents between the Raven and Crow. but I have met a lot of people that don’t know. I really enjoyed reading about them. I live in Oregon and my yard has them in it every day. I love watching them. some times we have as many as 20 across the road. they are very cool birds.

Posted by Anita on 6/16

Crow or Raven?  Hard to say, but I enjoy these birds immensely. Living at the foot of a butte, I will often observe numerous crows, up to a dozen, gliding, and frolicking, seemingly “playing” in the updrafts that occur in summer evenings, high up above the top of the butte.

Posted by Edmund on 6/16

I have so enjoyed all the comments and stories above.  Amazing birds, and wonderful people who care about them.  Thank you all!

Posted by JT on 6/16

I love the crows in my yard. They chase away the hawks what would eat my chickens smile  Its amazing to watch.  What also amazes me is reading about the callousness of the humans who kill these creatures without a second thought.

Posted by Melissa on 6/17

TO BARBARA:

The suggestion to get a field guide is an excellent one but in the meantime here is a quick answer to your questions:

Grackles are the size of a large robin, but longer and skinnier, with longer tail feathers. Also, their feathers have a lovely sheen, often making them look dark navy/purple in the sun. Common grackles have bright yellow eyes so are very easy to distinguish.

Red wing black birds are the size of a large sparrow (maybe a tiny bit bigger) and males have a bright orange-red patch on the “shoulder” area of their wings. Can’t miss it. The females are much harder to distinguish as they are a drab dark brown/black so I won’t go there.

Posted by Margaret on 6/17

While traveling the Grand canyon a few years ago, there was a raven sitting on a wall looking real hungry. Many people were tossing cookies and bread to him, but he did not eat any. When there was a good amount near, he called in the other ravens and they all had a feast.

Posted by agnes Hall on 6/17

These are very interesting tales and comments.

As I looked through them, I don’t think anyone mentioned that crows walk, ravens hop.  At least that’s how I was told to distinguish them.

Posted by R Dixon on 6/17

Re R Dixon’s comment about crows walking and ravens hopping, the raven I raised walked but would hop sideways if he was being sneaky, mischievous, funny or most usually, all 3.  He hopped and walked equally.  I can’t attest to whether crows hop, walk or both.

Posted by Robin on 6/17

I feed all meat scraps to the Ravens who live behind my house, solving the question of how to compost meat.  But it seems they are less cautious than crows.  They don’t post sentries or circle the food before they land and, maybe after stacking up several pieces of meat, fly away with it.  Sometimes they just carry it (walking) to a remote location and conceal it for latter consumption (I presume).  Then again, maybe they are less cautious because we have become such good friends.

Posted by Bill on 6/19

pl tell me how raven differs from crow?

Posted by digambar gadgil on 6/19

To digambar gadgil, did you read the article?  Ravens are bigger, have a bib of feathers that stick out, have heavier beaks, just a larger bird. Doesn’t much matter, though, as they’re similar in temperament and traits.  Very intelligent birds that have a keen sense of humor and like to play.

Posted by Robin on 6/19

The ravens at Chaco Culture National Historical Park know how to unlatch and open Rubbermaid brand “Action Packer” storage bins (even ones that have been wired shut).  They apparently have a preference for vanilla Powergel, Boboli pizza crusts and banana-nut muffins.  They DO NOT like honey-mustard pretzel bits…

Posted by Shelly on 6/20

The crows in the city of Chicago are very organized as well. They generally gang up to hunt for birds or squirrels and to harrass and chase off peregrine falcons.

Posted by Mike on 6/21

I once saw a clip on TV that showed a crow putting a nut in the middle of a crosswalk of a busy street, then waiting for the cars to come by and crack the nuts as they drove over them. The crow waited on the sidewalk and picked up the meat of the nuts after the cars went by. Talk about smart! I’m glad to read about how many people appreciate what superior animals they are.
Animals are not stupid and have feelings just like people.

Posted by Linda on 6/21

U will love these little stories of ravens and crows.

Posted by sharon lutero on 6/28

Sharon, were you going to post a link?  If so, you forgot it!

Posted by Elaine on 6/28

Here is the link to an interesting article about crows from this morning’s Vancouver Sun:

http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Crows+recall+faces+threatening+humans+teach+offspring+scientists/5022108/story.html

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