Common Raven

Corvus corax

The largest of the songbirds, the Common Raven is one of the most widespread species in the world, found across North America and Eurasia, southward into Central America and northern Africa. Perhaps the smartest of all birds, the raven can survive in Arctic, temperate, and desert environments.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • The Common Raven is an acrobatic flier. It frequently is seen to make rolls and somersaults in the air. It has even been observed flying upside down for as far as one kilometer (0.62 mi).
  • Breeding pairs of Common Ravens hold territories and try to exclude all other ravens throughout the year. In winter, young ravens finding a carcass will call other ravens to the prize. They apparently do this to overwhelm the local territory owners by force of numbers to gain access to the food.
  • The Common Raven often uses sheep wool to line its nest. When the female leaves the nest for a while she may cover the eggs with the wool.
  • Increasing raven populations can have significant negative effects on the populations of some vulnerable prey species, such as desert tortoises and Least Terns. Ravens can cause trouble for people too. Ravens have been implicated in causing power outages by contaminating insulators on power lines, fouling satellite dishes at the Goldstone Deep Space Site, peeling radar absorbent material off buildings at the Chinal Lake Naval Weapons center, pecking holes in airplane wings, and stealing golf balls.


  • Size: 56-69 cm (22-27 in)
  • Wingspan: 116-118 cm (46-46 in)
  • Weight: 689-1625 g (24.32-57.36 ounces)
  • Very large crow.
  • All glossy black.
  • Relatively long, slightly curved bill.
  • Long, graduated or wedge-shaped tail.
  • Long pointed wings with obvious separation of primaries while soaring.
  • Elongated throat feathers.
Sex Differences
Sexes alike in plumage, but male slightly larger on average.
Juvenile similar to adult, but head and back feathers not glossy. Flight feathers become brown with wear.
Range Map
Taxonomic Hierarchy


© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Corvidae
Genus: Corvus
Species: Corvus corax
  • Corvus corax clarionensis
  • Corvus corax corax
  • Corvus corax principalis
  • Corvus corax sinuatus
Common call a deep croak or hoarse "rrronk." Also a variety of sounds, including knocks and bell-like notes.

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
  • Length Range: 61-66 cm (24-26 in)
  • Weight: 1224 g (43.2 oz)
  • Size: 4. Large (16 - 32 in)
  • Color Primary: Black
  • Underparts: Black
  • Upperparts: Black with purple sheen.
  • Back Pattern: Solid
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
  • Bill Shape: All-purpose
  • Eye Color: Light blue in hatchlings; Gray in fledglings; Brown in adults.
  • Head Pattern: Plain
  • Crown Color: Black
  • Forehead Color: Black
  • Nape Color: Black
  • Throat Color: Black
  • Cere color: No Data
  • Flight Pattern: Strong flight., Soars on thermals and updrafts.
  • Wingspan Range: 117-142 cm (46-56 in)
  • Wing Shape: Broad-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Fan-shaped Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid
  • Upper Tail: Black
  • Under Tail: Black
  • Leg Color: Black
  • Breeding Location: Forests, coniferous, Open landscapes, Grassland with scattered trees, Mountains, Rocky places
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous, Solitary nester
  • Breeding Population: Fairly common to common
  • Egg Color: Green or gray green with brown or olives spots
  • Number of Eggs: 3 - 7
  • Incubation Days: 18 - 21
  • Egg Incubator: Female
  • Nest Material: Branches and twigs.
  • Migration: Nonmigratory
  • Condition at Hatching: Helpless and naked or with sparse down.

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Grand corbeau (French)
  • Cuervo cumún, Cuervo grande (Spanish)
  • American and Northwestern crows are smaller, have rounded or square tails, and very different voices.
  • Chihuahuan Raven is smaller, has a shorter bill with longer nasal bristles, a different voice, and whitish, not gray, bases to the body feathers.

Conservation Status

The Common Raven had nearly disappeared from the northeastern United States in the early part of the 20th century. Its numbers in that area increased markedly in the last half of the century, and it is reoccupying much of its former range. Because of small population sizes in much of the East, it is listed as endangered or threatened in a number of states. Populations have been increasing all across the range, especially in the West where it has taken advantage of human-modified habitats.


Sources used to Construct this Page:

Found in a broad range of habitats, including tundra, boreal forest, coniferous and deciduous forests, prairie and grassland, deserts, sea coasts, agricultural fields, towns, and cities. Prefers areas with cliffs for nesting.

  • Boarman, W. I., and B. Heinrich. 1999. Common Raven (Corvus corax). In The Birds of North America, No. 476 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
Omnivorous. Eats meat, eggs, insects, grain, fruit, garbage, and carrion.
Follows predators to scavenge on leftovers. Patrols roadways for carrion.

Adult Sexes Similar

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Additional Photos & Video

Adult Sexes Similar


All photos © 2008 Rick Swartzentrover - Free for non-profit use.

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