Photo courtesy Ben Bailey
This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the common raven.
In legend and literature, there is disagreement regarding the symbolism of the raven. Is it ominous and mysterious, a trickster, or the creator of the world, responsible for fire and light? However, when the discussion turns to intelligence, there is no disagreement that the raven is among the smartest of all birds.
Ravens have been observed at an unattended ice-fishing hole pulling in fishing line to eat the hooked fish. They will act in pairs to raid a nest, with one luring the adult away while the other sneaks in to capture an egg or nestling. Since their bills aren’t tough enough to penetrate the hide, ravens will lead wolves to a carcass to perform this task so they can eat the insides.
At times predators and at others scavengers, their ability to eat almost anything has contributed to making them one of the most widespread birds of the northern hemisphere. They are found in almost any habitat type, from the desert to the arctic, thriving both in wild spaces and among people.
Like others in the corvid family of birds, the common raven can mimic the calls of other birds and be taught to imitate human words. Up to 100 vocalizations with different meanings are recognized.
It takes a little practice to confidently distinguish between the all black raven and its crow cousin. Generally ravens are larger, their voices deeper, their bills longer and thicker, and their throat feathers shaggy. While crows are often seen in flocks, ravens are typically alone or in pairs. In flight, ravens tend to soar with a wedge-shaped tail while crows do a lot of flapping with a straight tail.
In our most recent area Christmas Bird Count, while both were numerous, crows outnumbered ravens in a ratio close to 4-to-1.
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