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15 July 2013

Crows and Ravens

On a Google+ community about all things macabre I stumbled upon this image:


The face appearing is of E.A. Poe. Very artistic, isn't it? 
What inspired me to write this post though is not Mr. Poe but the crows used to shape the face. One of the people who replied to this image said those weren't crows but ravens. So far I never thought about the difference between crow and raven, actually because I thought there was no real difference but in the name. I thought it was just 2 popular ways to call the same bird and I believe I'm not the only one believing this. So just to make a little clarification for me and for all I repost you a very clear explanation of the difference between crows and ravens.




"The Common Raven ( Corvus corax ) is one of largest members of the crow family (the Thick-billed Raven, Corvus crassirostris , is the largest), corvidae, and order Passeriformes (perching /songbirds). The Corvidae family also includes birds such as crows, rooks, jackdaws, blue jays, magpies, and many others. Among all birds, ravens are said to be the most intelligent, showing capability for thought and problem solving, as well as tool making and using.

Ravens are omnivorous scavengers, meaning that they will eat, among other things, grain, bugs, berries, shellfish, small animals, eggs, and carrion. They have been known to act in concert with wolves or coyotes, leading them to prey or carrion. This is a win-win situation, since the raven is unable to penetrate the tough hide of the carrion with its beak, and the wolves don't have to search as hard for food. Because they eat carrion, ravens have long been associated with war and death, thus adding to the bad reputation they have acquired. In reality, these birds are very clever, curious, playful and some can even "talk". 


The Raven in Mythology 

With a reputation as a trickster and thief, harbinger of bad luck or of death, and unwitting giver of gifts, the raven is a part of mythology in almost every culture. This includes, but is not limited to, Native American, Scandinavian, European, Japanese, Chinese, Aborigine and Indian. In many cultures, the raven was originally white, but was turned black by a god who was displeased or from encountering smoke on one of his many escapades.

In Scandinavian mythology, the Norse god Odin has two ravens, Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory) whom he would send out at the beginning of the day to gather information for him. 

In much Native American mythology, generally the Pacific Northwest, the raven is a creator. The first humans came from a pea plant that the bird had created, or he found them hiding in clam (male) and chiton (female) shells (Haida tribe). Messenger and occasional hero, albeit unintentionally, this is a mischievous trickster god, similar to the coyote. The raven is attributed to bringing the stars, moon and sun to the sky, mischievously stolen from a man who had kept them in a box for himself. 

The Celts associated the raven and crow with Morrigan, their goddess of death and war, she was said to be able to take the raven's shape.

The Tower of London: Ancient legend says that if the ravens that occupy the White Tower depart, the Tower and British Empire will fall. King Charles II almost got rid of the birds because his astronomer had complained about them. After hearing the legend, being superstitious he changed his mind, instead ordering that at least six ravens be kept at the tower at all times. Thus, there is always a regiment of ravens kept there, with their own keeper, the Ravenmaster. 

Thanks to the popularity of the Edgar Allan Poe poem, "The Raven," "Nevermore" is probably the word most associated with ravens.

Corvus even has its own constellation, in the southern sky near Virgo.


The Difference Between the Common Raven ( Corvus corax ) and the American/Common Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos ) 

Though you can technically call ravens crows, belonging to the Corvus (crow) family as they do, you cannot call all crows ravens.

What are some differences between these two birds? The immediate difference between ravens and crows is size, the crow being approximately 1/3 smaller. The raven around the size of a red-tailed hawk (or a medium size full-grown cat), approximately 22 to 27 inches long, and the crow closer to the size of a pigeon, 17 to 18 inches long. 

Males and females of the species are about the same size and same color, young raven and crow mouths are pink-lined, the color changing from pink to black usually by the second year. Black from beak to feet, ravens and crows can both have iridescent sheens of blue, purple and green on their feathers, ravens more so than crows. Younger ravens can have a brownish-black sheen to their feathers. Rarely, ravens and crows have been born white; they can be either leucistic (less pigment) or true albino (no pigment). White ravens have been reported to live by Qualicum Beach, an island town in Brittish Columbia. 


Ravens are generally seen singly or in pairs, though young ravens stay with their parents for about six months. The more social crow tends to flock, the breeding pairs of crows at times allowing a couple yearlings to stay on and help with the next batch of chicks. Non-breeding birds of both species collect in like flocks, and share communal roosts. When finding food on a breeding pair's territory, a non-mated bird calls to fellow flock members, as the breeding pair is less likely to attempt to drive off a large number of intruders.

Ravens tend to avoid big cities, while crows can make their home there. Ravens have a deeper, more guttural call, and have a wider vocabulary of calls than crows. They are great at mimicking sounds, and some ravens have picked up human words, even changing the pitch of their call to reflect a human female or male voice.

source: emg-zine.com

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