Photo: A male raven preens in the warm spring sunshine

Object of myth and poetry, the common raven is an intelligent bird of prey.

Photograph by Michael S. Quinton

Map

Map: Raven range

Raven Range

Audio

Fast Facts

Type:
Bird
Diet:
Omnivore
Average life span in the wild:
13 years
Size:
24 to 26 in (61 to 66 cm); wingspan, 3.8 to 4.7 ft (1.2 to 1.4 m)
Weight:
2.3 lbs (1.3 kg)
Group name:
Flock
Did you know?
According to legend, if the ravens leave the Tower of London, the fortress and the British kingdom will fall.
Size relative to a tea cup:
Illustration: Raven compared with tea cup

Common ravens are actually rather remarkable animals. These sleek, black birds are excellent and acrobatic fliers on par with falcons and hawks. Such aerial skills are on display during breeding season, when exciting mating rituals include an elaborate dance of chases, dives, and rolls.

These intelligent birds were honored by Native Americans and often portrayed as sly pranksters for their playful nature.

Known as scavengers, ravens are also effective hunters that sometimes use cooperative techniques. Teams of ravens have been known to hunt down game too large for a single bird. They also prey on eggs and nestlings of other birds, such as coastal seabirds, as well as rodents, grains, worms, and insects. Ravens do dine on carrion and sometimes on human garbage.

In winter, common ravens may gather in flocks to forage during the day and to roost at night. During the rest of the year, they are often coupled, or in small groups. Ravens are believed to mate for life. They build large, stick nests in which females lay three to seven eggs each spring. Both parents care for their young, which remain dependent for several months.

Common ravens typically vocalize with a croaking sound, but they boast a wider repertoire of calls.

Ravens are the largest passerine (perching) birds in North America. They were once exterminated as pests thought to constitute a threat to game birds and domestic animals. Today, populations are expanding, and the birds are a familiar sight across the Northern Hemisphere from the icy Arctic to the Mediterranean and in urban areas as well.

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