Common Raven


The Raven (Corvus corvax)

Background:

Ravens and crows are relatives, and show the family resemblance enough to confuse many people. The raven is the big brother – the size of a large hawk, with a wingspan of over four feet. These are birds that have captured the human imagination in dark ways; throughout history they have been regarded as pests and as evil birds that should be destroyed whenever possible.

This bias is perhaps a hold-over from more superstitious times; there are innumerable tales of ravens in witchcraft and the supernatural. In reality these are intelligent, long-lived birds with complex languages and social customs – they are adaptable, playful and a most interesting part of the Island’s natural history. Ravens are not only larger than crows (Corvus brachyrynchos), their roughly-feathered heads and necks also contrast with the much more abundant crow.

Ravens like heavily-forested areas, but are also often seen along the coast. They build large nests in trees which the pair will use for many years if undisturbed. Ravens may live for several decades, and are often found in small groups (families) which share care of the young.

The Raven Year:

Ravens are year-round residents; they begin nest improvement in midwinter. By March three to six eggs have been laid and the incubation period begins. While the female incubates the eggs, her partner can be seen foraging alone and bringing food back for her. This early start to the year means that eggs and young of later nesting birds can be available – ravens, like crows, are efficient nest-predators. By June the young are fledged and can be seen practicing their flying and language skills; young ravens are real talkers. It takes two to three years for full maturity to develop, so a raven family group can have individuals with a variety of ages. All through this time the young are learning to hunt, scavenge and in general become full members of raven society.

Food Habits:

Ravens are great scavengers, cleaning up road kill and any other dead meat that they encounter – and they survey a large territory several times a day, looking for the unfortunate. They are also efficient predators, taking other birds up to duck-size, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Their keen eye-sight and flying ability makes them particularly efficient as mouse-catchers – they will quarter a field like a hunting hawk, swooping down on an unwary mouse from hundreds of yards away. They are omnivorous when they have to be, but prefer a meat-based diet when they can get it, and preferably dead meat (carrion) since that is less trouble.

Raven-watching:

Part of the delight in having ravens around is in watching their acrobatic, playful flight maneuvers. They do stall turns, inverted flight, steep dives with folded wings – obviously joyful flyers. An even greater pleasure is in listening to their complex calls and trying to figure out what they are saying. Ravens are great mimics – there are many stories of birds that could do an excellent train-whistle, or car-horn sound. Except when hunting or carrying food they are seldom silent for long, commenting on anything or anyone they see. The young have teen-age voices, while adults have much deeper tones.

Raven Habitat Management:

Since ravens have traditionally been regarded as enemies, there is relatively little information available on positive management steps. They need a reasonably undisturbed nesting environment so old-growth forest is preferred, although there are reports of nests being used for years in hedgerows on busy farms. They need protection from gunners.

In particular, supplementary feeding during the critical nesting period can be beneficial in lean years. Any spare carcasses from trappers can be hung in trees (keeping them away from foxes and coyotes) to provide a fascinating feeding station. Spare eggs or food scraps will also be appreciated. Try this as a spring experiment – set out a few eggs where a raven doing a fly-past will see them. Chances are he will land nearby, do a few jumping-jacks over them to be sure that this is not a trap, then carry them off one by one to the nest site. After the young are fledged such supplementary feeding is not necessary, but any dead meat will still be appreciated by this great scavenger!

Upcoming Events

Jul
6
Mon
9:00 pm Summer Camp: Young Ecologists Se...
Summer Camp: Young Ecologists Se...
Jul 6 @ 9:00 pm – Jul 10 @ 3:00 pm
Young Ecologists: Session One This camp will begin to introduce the campers to the amazing complexity of our native Acadian forests. They will dissect owl pellets, take part in forest restoration planning and plantings and
Jul
13
Mon
9:00 pm Summer Camp: Nature Discovery Se...
Summer Camp: Nature Discovery Se...
Jul 13 @ 9:00 pm – Jul 17 @ 3:00 pm
Nature Discovery: Session One This camp will introduce the children to the woods, stream and native tree nursery that surround our Nature Center. The campers will delight in learning to use all their senses to
Jul
20
Mon
9:00 pm Summer Camp: Becoming a Naturali...
Summer Camp: Becoming a Naturali...
Jul 20 @ 9:00 pm – Jul 24 @ 3:00 pm
Becoming a Naturalist Session One This camp focuses on encountering and describing the natural world. Through the use of art and other hands-on outdoor activities, they’ll expand their understanding of life in the woodlands, waterways,
Jul
25
Sat
10:00 am Tracking the Mammals of PEI
Tracking the Mammals of PEI
Jul 25 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Come on out and learn about the native and introduced mammals found on PEI, as well as a brief look at some of the mammals we’ve lost. After a brief slideshow, we’ll head off to
Jul
27
Mon
9:00 pm Summer Camp: Bushcraft Ecology A...
Summer Camp: Bushcraft Ecology A...
Jul 27 @ 9:00 pm – Jul 31 @ 3:00 pm
Bushcraft Ecology Ages 12-14 These campers will delight in learning survival skills such as one-match fire making, shelter building, rope making with natural fibres, and tracking animals. Touching on plant and tree identification, campers will

Nursery Catalogue

Calendar of Events

Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to our Mailing List