Common Raven

common raven

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The common raven (Corvus corax) is a member of a family of birds known as the Corvidae, which includes jays, crows, and magpies. The raven is found throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere in many types of habitats. The raven is a permanent resident in California, but none nest at Kaweah Oaks Preserve that we know of. They are often observed flying by.

General description: Up to 24" from beak to end of tail. The raven is the largest species of songbird and largest all-black bird in the world. The raven can only be confused with a hawk or crow. Ravens have large, stout bills, shaggy throat feathers, and wedge-shaped tails, visible best when in flight (as compared to the square tail feathers of a crow). 

Ravens are excellent fliers, engaging in aerial acrobatics and sometimes soaring to great heights. Flight is often an alternation of wing flapping and gliding and is deceptively fast, as ravens move quickly with seemingly slow wing beats. There is no mistaking the raucous call of the raven; the deep, resonant “kaw” is its trademark. However, the raven can produce an amazing assortment of sounds. One study showed ravens have more than 30 distinct vocalizations. 

Life history: Ravens probably first breed at 3 or 4 years of age and mate for life. Ravens are probably very long-lived in the wild; one captive bird died of old age at 29 years. 

Ravens begin displaying courtship behavior in mid-January, and by mid-March adult pairs are roosting near their nesting locations. The female lays from 3 to 7 eggs. Only the female incubates the eggs; she is fed by the male while on the nest. The chicks hatch after about three weeks and grow quickly, leaving the nest about four weeks after hatching. Both parents feed the young by regurgitating food and water which is stored in a throat pouch. Young ravens leave the nest by the first week of June. 

Ravens often form loose flocks during the day and congregate for roosting at night. As many as 500 ravens have been seen in one roost. 

Ravens do not undertake long migrations like many birds, but breeding birds usually relocate for nesting each year. 

When not breeding they may travel 30 to 40 miles each day from roost to daytime feeding areas. 

Food habits: Ravens consume a wide variety of both plant and animal matter. They are notorious scavengers and are at times predatory on small animals. They are common visitors to garbage dumps. Ravens will hide or cache food supplies. They also have the habit, like most hawks and owls, of regurgitating undigestible food in the form of a pellet. 

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