Common Raven

Corvus corax
Range Map

The Common Raven is much larger than an American Crow. In flight, the middle tail feathers (Rectrices) are long, giving the tail a wedge shape. Whereas the American Crow’s tail is rounded, or fan-like. Another trait I’ve noticed is the sound of their flight. While the crow’s flight is nearly silent, the ravens have a “whirr” or “whoosh” sound when they pass overhead.

We find these birds globally in the northern hemisphere of Asia, Europe, and North America. They have a well-earned, centuries old reputation for causing mischief and exploiting human activities to their own advantage. These birds are intelligent and can sort out solutions to complex problems if it means gaining a reward.

Science recognises ten subspecies of Common Raven, four of which are found in North America:

  • C. c. kamtschaticus lives in Siberia eastward through the Aleutian Islands to western Alaska.
  • C. c. principalis lives in northern Alaska across Canada to Greenland, and south to central British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Wisconsin, and through the Appalachian Mountains to Georgia.
  • C. c. sinuatus lives from southeastern British Columbia and Montana south through the Great Plains and Great Basin and mainland Mexico to Central America.
  • C. c. clarionensis lives on Isla Clarion in the Revillagigedo Islands (Mexico), and also throughout California and Baja California (Mexico).
  • C. c. corax lives in Europe and Asia.
  • C. c. hispanus lives on the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal).
  • C. c. laurencei lives in southeastern Europe and the Balkans and east to India.
  • C. c. tibetanus lives in central Asia.
  • C. c. tingitanus lives in northern Africa.
  • C. c. canariensis lives on the Canary Islands.

Ravens can be hard on the surrounding species, applying effective and complex strategies for nest predation; tag-teaming attacks on nesting seabirds to lure the parent from its nest and stealing eggs or young.

I met ravens in February 2017 on Isla Clarion, and being in such a remote location, I assumed they were a distinct species or subspecies. I recently learned that it is not true. In fact, the ravens I find in my yard are regarded as the same subspecies (C. c. clarionensis).

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