General Crow/Raven Info

Classification: Crows and raves belong to the order Passerformes which include finches, warblers, woodpeckers, shrikes, vireos, and many others. Their family is Corvidae, or commonly known as the "crow family," and are of the Genus Corvus.

Scientific Nomenclature: Raven, Corvus corax, and crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos.

Sex differentiation: The sex of a raven or crow can't be determined from external appearances.

Range:Crows and ravens have ranges varying from just a few miles, as may be the case with some urban crows, upwards of hundreds of miles for some ravens.

Diet: Bernd Heinrich noted that many birds are evolutionary programmed to feed on one specific type of resource, for example: The phoebe sits on a perch and catches only insects that fly--the red-eyed virep looks for caterpillars under leaves of deciduous trees--the towee turns over dead leaves to find insects, ad infinitum. But crows and raven, as Lorenz (1970) noted, are "specialists in non-specialization." They love carrion, but eat anything under the sun it seems including shellfish, amphibians, louse from bovines, spiders, acorns, fish, and

Enemies: Probably all birds that are predatory in nature are enemies to crows and ravens. These include eagles, hawks and falcons, but it is the owl that is of the highest concern. Crows and ravens will drive off these types of birds by utilizing their numbers, making lots of noise, and performing dive-bombs towards the enemy while chasing it out of their territory. At night though, the crow is most vulnerable. Roosting in large numbers, owls, with their stealth-like hunting skills can make easy prey. Ravens, the more solitary of the two, are less at risk.

Ecological Benefits: Despite a duly reputation as crop stealers and dumpster divers, a study found that a family of crows devoured about forty thousnd grubs, caterpillars, army worms and other pests to farmers in just one nesting period. Also, they aid in keeping rodent populations down, and on a dubious note, help to keep our streets free of road-kill remains.

Vocaliziations: Crows and ravens have a variety of calls they use. Crows exhibit at least two dozen different calls, and ravens express themselves with 20-100's depending on the "expert" one refers. Calls that may mean "warning," "food here," but also probably used to identify themselves to a certain group. When Kilham was attempting to wean his pet raven from a domestic life, he noticed that a juvenile raven flew abouve making "quaaas", and his raven responded similarly, like it was in conversation. Then on another occasion, an adult flew over making harsh "kwacks", sending the pet raven straight to his shoulder scared. Specific vocalizations may be used in times of intimate gesturing also. Kilham noted during one of his intimate sessions with his pet raven, a soft, low "er-uk" that he never heard again.

Courtship and "family life": Crows and ravens mate for life, but will quickly find a mate in the other dies.

However, it has been noted that chicks may acquire vocalizations that provide identity to fledglings even after months of separation.

Cooperation: The Corvids, in general, are considered to be a social group. It seems that it is a combination of factors that keep social families of various species together--probably a combination of vocaliziation recognition; behavior; and physical appearance.

Native names: Ravens, Corvus corax, are also known as Yel, Txamsem, Hemaskus, and Tsesketco by Pacific Northwest Native American tribes.