- Padfoot the Painting Ocelot
- Unique jaguar makes public debut
- Jaguar gets new smile thanks to Valley team
- Rhinoceros Hornbill Chick
- New Jaguar on Exhibit!
- Zoo Babies! Black Footed Ferrets
- Positive Effects for Andean Bears
- Learn More About Phoenix Zoo Animals
- Budgett's Frog
- Poison Dart Frogs
- Patagonian Cavy
- All About the Desert Tortoise
- The Turkey Vulture
- Meet the Phoenix Zoo Meerkat Family
- The American Bald Eagle, Our Nation's Symbol
- Ruppell's Griffon Vulture Facts
- Facts About the Common Raven
- Undulated and Laced Moray Eels and the Coral Reef
- Giant Vietnamese Centipede
- The Phoenix Zoo's Asian Elephants
- When It Comes to Bird Beaks, Size Does Matter
- Petting Zoo at Harmony Farm
- Wild Dogs
- My Arts Community
Facts About the Common Raven
Because of its black plumage, croaking call, and diet of carrion, the raven has long been considered a bird of ill omen and of interest to creators of myths and legends. There are many references to ravens in literature as well as playing a prominent part in some cultures. For instance, in Tlingit culture, there are two different Raven characters; one is the creator Raven who is responsible for bringing the world into being and the other is the trickster Raven, always selfish, sly, conniving, and hungry. England's Raven legend has the raven as a protector of the country; England will not fall to a foreign invader as long as there are ravens at the Tower of London The government now maintains several birds on the grounds of the tower, either for insurance or to please tourists (or both).
In any case, Common Ravens are known for their intelligence and complex social dynamics. They 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. Ravens can thrive in varied climates and are one of the most widespread, naturally occurring birds worldwide. Its range is from the Arctic to the deserts of North Africa, and to islands in the Pacific Ocean. 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. However, with a loss of habitat, many may be found in urban areas.
The Common Raven is a large black bird in the crow family, with iridescent feathers. The bill is large and slightly curved. At maturity, it is between 22 to 27 inches in length (with males being slightly larger), with a wingspan double that. Ravens usually live ten to fifteen years in the wild, or twice that in captivity. Apart from its greater size, the raven differs from its cousins the crows by having a larger and heavier beak, and a deeper and more varied barking call note, shaggy throat feathers, and a longer, wedge-shaped tail.
Much of raven behavior is related to mating and reproduction. Juveniles begin to court at a very early age, but may not bond for another 2-3 years. Aerial acrobatics and displays of intelligence and ability to provide food are key behaviors of courting ravens. Once paired, ravens tend to nest together for life, usually in the same location. Breeding pairs must have a territory of their own before they begin nest-building and reproduction, and the territory and its food resources will be defended against others. The female will lay from three to seven pale bluish-green, brown-blotched eggs. Both parents keep the eggs warm, and take turns feeding the chicks. As with many birds, pairing does not necessarily mandate sexual monogamy, and raven habits show fluidity in this regard.
Common ravens are mainly scavengers. They eat a wide array of animal foods, including arthropods, amphibians, small mammals, birds, reptiles, and carrion. They are attracted to carrion and eat also the insects that feed on carrion (chiefly maggots and beetles). They are also known to eat the afterbirth of ewes and other large mammals. Stomach analyses show that their diet is made up primarily of mammalian flesh, followed by insects and birds. Common ravens take their food from the ground and will store foods of all kinds, including nuts, bones, eggs, and meat.
Ravens have impressed their biologist observers with their apparent intelligence and insight. They seem capable of learning innovative solutions to newly encountered problems. In fact, experiments have shown that members of the crow family are capable of using tools. They communicate with physical displays of either threat or appeasement to subordinate and dominant ravens. They are very vocal animals, with a diverse suite of calls and non-vocal sounds for different purposes and social contexts. From 15 to 33 categories of vocalizations have been described in this species. And like other corvids, Ravens can copy sounds from their environment, including human speech.
Because of the wide distribution of the raven throughout the Northern Hemisphere, its shrewdness, its all black color, and relatively large size, it is no wonder that man has developed myths and legends associated with this great bird. In societies throughout the
northern hemisphere, the raven has appeared since ancient times as a prophet, a harbinger of death and doom, a messenger, as well as being strongly associated with storms and floods. We speak admiringly of a pride of lions, or kindly of a charm of finches, but not true of the raven. Somehow it does not seem fair, although opportunistically scavenging and feeding on dead animals makes the association with death obvious.
So what are we to make of this bird—creator of the world, scourge of all mankind? Possibly no other species has evoked such strong emotion or found its way more into the psyches of men and women throughout time. It is truly remarkable to consider that the raven could have been at the center of mankind's earliest thoughts on the origin of the earth, and that a raven creation myth subsequently spread around the world. Such a tribute!