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Common Raven

Aristophanes by Clay Showalter
Meet Aristophanes

Hatched: Spring of 2008

Arrived at Audubon: May 20, 2008

Sex: Male

Expected lifespan: 15-20 years in wild; average 20-40 in captivity

Found: Location unknown

History: Aristophanes was illegally removed from the wild as a chick and was hand raised for three weeks. The raven was then taken by a relative of the person who had removed the bird from the wild; the relative immediately brought Aristophanes to Portland Audubon. We have very limited information on where Aristophanes was originally found or why he was removed from the wild. 

Unfortunately, Aristophanes was already completely imprinted onto humans by the time he arrived at Audubon. An effort was made to reintroduce him to the wild by leaving him with adult ravens who had offspring of approximately the same age. The adults were willing to accept Aristophanes, but he kept running back to the volunteers trying to release him.

Sponsor Aristophanes

You can help care for Aristophanes through Portland Audubon's "Sponsor a Wild Thing" program. Sponsorship is a great way to learn more about our incredible education birds; to help us meet the birds' food, medical, and housing needs; and to support our efforts to bring the birds to classrooms and events, where they serve as ambassadors for their species and Portland Audubon. Sponsor Aristophanes now.

Aristophanes by Tara Lemezis
Species Fact Sheet

Scientific name   
Corvus corax

Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Corvidae
Genus: Corvus
Species: corax

The common raven’s scientific name, Corvus corax, means “raven croaker.”

Size (same for both sexes)
Length: 22-27 inches
Weight: 1.5-3.5 pounds
Wingspan: 3.75-4.5 feet

The raven has long, pointed wings with deep, glossy, black plumage - these feathers have a metallic shine of purple or violet that is noticeable in certain lighting conditions. The bill is long and stout. A fringe of coarse feathers, called the goiter, decorates the throat. In flight, the tail appears wedge-shaped, which distinguishes ravens from crows.

The raven is the largest of the passerines. It is distinguished from the crow by its harsh cry, size, and robust bill. Hawk-like, the raven alternates flapping with soaring in flight. Ravens soar on flat wings while the crow’s wings are bent upward.

Related species
The raven is often confused with its close relative, the crow, but there are major differences between the two species. Ravens are more solitary than crows, which will often assemble in large flocks. A raven’s beak is larger than that of a crow, its call is deeper, and its tail is wedge-shaped where a crow’s tail is fan-shaped. A raven is every bit as alert as a crow and possesses sharp eyesight and hearing. Ravens are considered among the most intelligent of all birds; like crows, they can learn to imitate a variety of sounds, including the human voice. In nature, their calls include guttural croaks, gurgling noises, and a sharp, metallic “tock.”

Common ravens are one of the most widespread, naturally occurring birds worldwide. They are found in northern Europe, the British Isles, Greenland (mainly coastal areas), Iceland, and northern Scandinavia; east through central Asia to the Pacific Ocean; south to the Himalayas, northwestern India, the Iranian region and the near east; in northwestern Africa and the Canary Islands; and in North and Central America as far south as Nicaragua.

Habitat/territory size
Common ravens prefer open landscapes, such as treeless tundra, seacoasts, open riverbanks, rocky cliffs, mountain forests, plains, deserts, and scrubby woodlands. However, these ravens can be found in most types of habitats except for rainforests. Common ravens in North America tend to be found in wild areas, whereas their cousins, common crows, tend to be found in areas more affected by human habitation. In some parts of their range, the birds have become quite habituated to humans and can be found in urban areas.

Common ravens generally roost on cliff ledges or in large trees, but they have also established nests on power-lines, in urban areas, and on billboards, to name only a few.

The raven is a non-migratory bird.

Ravens are omnivorous, eating a variety of items including meat, fish, vegetation and fruit. They will eat carrion, and to the raven, it makes no difference how long an animal has been dead! They seem to enjoy carrion as much as they enjoy the flesh of recently killed animals.

Common ravens take their food from the ground and will store foods of all kinds, including nuts, bones, eggs and meat. Young ravens begin to experiment with caching edible and non-edible objects soon after leaving the nest.

Ravens mate for life, and a pair will use the same nest each season. They build a large nest on a cliff or sometimes in a tree. Nesting materials include sticks, twigs, cow ribs, rope ends, canvas, moss, seaweed, roots, hay, cow dung, strips of hide, shredded bark, and hair from deer, horses, cows and coyotes. In spring, the female lays 3-7 green to blue eggs that have blotches and streaks of brown. The young are helpless and naked when they hatch.

Every member of the family Corvidae is noisy and quarrelsome. They will kill small animals for food using their beak and will also use it for defense.

These birds are extremely devoted to each other and their young. Ravens are usually found in family groups composed of the parents and their offspring. When the young are old enough to leave the nest and fend for themselves, they wander off. Their elders, however, remain together.

Common ravens are known for their intelligence and complex social dynamics. They seem capable of learning innovative solutions to newly encountered problems. Common ravens often forage in larger groups in areas where resources are concentrated, and non-breeding individuals may occupy communal roosts, but most commonly, ravens occur alone or in pairs.

Common ravens walk on the ground or fly. They may also glide and soar, which they do more often than American crows. They may fly like stunt pilots at times, doing partial barrel-rolls in flight.

The common raven nearly disappeared from the northeastern United States in the early part of the 20th century due to deforestation. Its numbers in that area increased markedly in the last half of the century, and it is reoccupying much of its former range. Populations have been increasing all across the range, albeit slower in the northeastern United States and Canada because they have to wait for those forests to regenerate. Ravens have increased most in the west, where they have taken advantage of human-modified habitats.

The raven is not commonly seen near populated areas like crows, although it is still common in the western United States at upper elevations and in less populated areas. The raven’s ability to adapt because of its varied diet has made its situation in the wild more encouraging than other birds.

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