Crows and Ravens


We have both crows and ravens in our neighborhood on Green Mountain, west of Denver. Angry Bird’s feathers ruffled   They can be surprisingly hard to tell apart.

Crows usually live in groups, using many different calls, the most common being the caw. They are smaller, sleeker birds. The big giveaway for me, though, is their more slender bill.

foraging crow-14

Crow in the back yard foraging for earthworms.

Ravens are heavier, bulkier, with beaks that mean business. Usually, you’ll find ravens in groups of 2-4. They croak more than they caw, a deep, rough sound.

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Raven croaking his possession of something tasty in the road. There were several crows in the spruce tree nearby that eventually took over the road kill.

Crows and ravens may flock together, which will make it easy to figure out who’s who — ravens are a third larger than crows, in fact they are among the largest perching birds in the world.

Recently, while I was out walking the dogs, I saw a flock of crows trailing behind a raven, cawing like crazy. On my return trip, I saw both crows and ravens feasting at a ripped open trash bag, garbage strewn around the yard. The crows had found the bag, but needed the raven, with it’s heavy beak, to open it. So they had shown it the food resource, and the birds were happy.

This was not the first time the birds had targeted the trash, either. As I got closer, the door to the house opened and a man rushed out to startle the birds away. I heard his wife say “They did it again. I’ll get another trash bag.”

Cooperation between crows and ravens only goes so far, though. Yesterday, we watched a small flock of crows mob a raven, going so far as to peck it on the head in flight. This is nesting season — maybe the raven had gotten too close to the crow’s nest.

 

 

 

 

 

About coloradogeography

Amy Law is a second-generation Coloradoan with a passion for her native state. This translated into a Master’s degree in Natural Resources from Colorado State University, and continues as a lifelong fascination with how people and nature interact. From family vacations in the station wagon to travel for work, she's covered the state, and everywhere she goes, she finds new things to see and ideas to explore.
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3 Responses to Crows and Ravens

  1. Pingback: Raven in the backyard | Colorado In Depth and At Altitude

  2. brigit ann davis says:

    I live in southeast Denver, near Cranmer Park and we are being picked on by what I thought was a group of 3 crows but now think are ravens, they have taken to divebombing me and my lab as we walk down the alley (It isnt a thru alley, more like a long driveway with 6 houses off it), and my neighbors border collie n her yard. They are very large and scary.and they are very noisy. what is going on?

    • I think they are trying to tell you that you’re not welcome in the alley. My guess is that either you startled them while they were feeding on something in the alley, or they have a nest very close by.
      As fascinated as I am by crows and ravens, I don’t know how discourage them from dive-bombing you. They easiest thing may be to simply avoid that part of your walk. I know that seems like giving in, but they are more invested in protecting that territory than you are. People have tried a lot of things to discourage crows and ravens from being in a particular place, and I don’t know of a single instance where people have won.
      What you DON’T want to do is to try to scare the ravens away. Dr. John Marzluff of the University of Washington Avian Conservation Lab (http://sefs.washington.edu/research.acl/) did an experiment in which he put on a mask, then caught and released some crows on campus. From that point on, ANYBODY who wore the mask was mobbed by the crows. What’s more, the size of the mob grew over years — they taught their young to harass the person in the mask, too! Ravens are capable of the same sort of social teaching.
      And I really feel sorry for the poor border collie in you neighbor’s yard. It is stuck in the yard, with the angry ravens around it. Ouch.
      If you really have to continue through the alley, you can try a couple of things. 1) Try to spot their nest, and give it a wide berth. 2) Do your best to walk in a calm and non-threatening manner. Unless you are threatening their nest, I don’t think they’ll actually hit you. They MIGHT get used to you, and grudgingly grant you passage.
      I wish I could be more encouraging. Good luck.

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