Wild Profile: meet the common raven

Published: November 13, 2018

By Erik Mandre/Shutterstock

It’s a routine bird-lovers ID question: is it a raven or a crow? Though the two can be tough to tell apart—both are black; both can get noisy—common ravens are larger and twice as heavy, with shaggy neck feathers and a wedge-shaped tail instead of a fan. Ravens also prefer to stick to rural areas—which is why you’ll see them in cottage country, even during the cold months (they don’t migrate).

Ravens are acrobatic flyers. They swoop, soar, free fall, and roll. During the winter courtship season, mates will perform tandem dives and somersaults, careening towards each other to briefly touch wings or even claws mid-manoeuvre. In winter, these birds will gather in flocks to roost at night, but they usually like to hang out in pairs—they’re believed to mate for life.

Resilient and adaptable, ravens can live in almost all climates, from hot desert to Arctic tundra, surviving on everything from insects and small rodents to carrion and garbage. And they’re smart. Disconcertingly smart (maybe that’s why Edgar Allan Poe made one the subject of a spooky poem). Research shows they appear to have the ability to plan, problem solve, use tools, and even barter.

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