Native Animal of the Month: Common Raven

Written by Jennifer Callaghan
    Monday, 22 October 2012
Native Animal of the Month: Common Raven

The raven (Corvus corax) is a massive black-colored bird with a large bill and near 1 meter wingspan. It can be distinguished from a crow by its long, wedge-shaped tail and shaggy throat feathers.

Their habitats range from coniferous forests to arid climates and they often live comfortably among humans. The raven can be found in the northern half of Wisconsin and is considered the symbol of the North Woods.

Ravens eat everything from insects and fruit to small animals and carrion. They are incredibly intelligent birds and will often work in pairs to forage for food. One bird acting as a decoy will distract the target while the other bird steals the food.

Ravens are known for their aerial acrobatics which can appear similar to those of large raptors. They can fly long distances in an upside-down position and perform mid-air somersaults and rolls.

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The raven is much less social than its cousin the crow. They usually travel solo or in pairs, but can be found in larger flocks around landfills or where food is abundant. They communicate with deep, throaty croaks and court with bill grabbing, cooing and preening. Ravens will begin to mate at age 3-4 and will mate for life. Both the male and female will feed the young and use the same nest site for many years.

Fun Facts:

  • Ravens can live about 10 years in the wild and have been known to live up to 17 years in captivity.
  • The raven is considered the most intelligent bird in the world. They are capable of solving problems using logic and, in some tests, surpassed the capabilities of chimpanzees.
  • The raven is capable of complex emotions. Happiness, rage, surprise, humor and kindness are just some of the emotions that ravens are capable of expressing.
  • Rraven clipartavens use wolves and other large predators to do their dirty work for them. Ravens' beaks are incapable of tearing the tough hides of carcasses, so they often call wolves to the site to rip open the body and expose the meat. Ravens have to be clever and careful to steal meat away from the large predators as they feed together. Recent research even suggests that wolves hunt in packs so as to lose less meat to ravens.
  • The raven is often used as a symbol of death and bad news in literature and folk legends. Shakespeare used the raven as a recurring symbol of doom in Othello, Julius Caesar and Macbeth.
  • The ravens of the Tower of London are beloved and revered. Legend says that if the ravens ever leave the tower, the British Empire will fall.
  • People of the Pacific Northwest regard the birds as pranksters, bringing fire to people by stealing it from the sun.
  • "The Raven" is arguably Edgar Allen Poe's most famous poem. It is about a man mourning the loss of his lover while a raven sitting graveside torments the man to madness by repeatedly quipping "nevermore!"
Jennifer Callaghan

Jennifer Callaghan

Jennifer came to Wisconsin later in life, but has fully embraced the great state of Wisconsin as home. Her first career was as a professional ballet dancer, but a lifelong passion for nature and animals led her to a second career in environmental biology. She loves to learn new things and share her love of nature with others. In her free time she likes to travel and stay active with her awesome husband and sweet little dogs.


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