SciSun: A bird by any other name….   Leave a comment

A few days ago we talked about Ravens vs. Crows (the championship bowl game is waiting for a big-name sponsor); and a few days before that we talked about differences between types organisms (plants and animals) that result in species. To see what we talked about before that, you’ll have to scroll back a few pages. But we think there was a squirrel in there somewhere.

Well, we realized ravens can be a very good example of differences between species if we compare them with their similar family members, the crow. Many times people use the term raven and crow interchangeably, as if they were the same animal. While both birds belong to a type of bird family named Corvidae, that’s where the similarity stops because ravens and crows are different species that could be confused for each other only because both are large-ish black birds.

The Common Raven is Corvus corax. (Corvus is a different use of the word Corvidae). American Crows are Corvus brachyrhynchos (why not Corvus americanus?). Unless you know better – and you will after reading this post – it’s easy to mistake the two birds, particularly when they’re flying or are seen from far away. Both are all black, including the feathers, legs and beak; have bodies that are about a foot-and-a-half to two feet long (with Crow being on the smaller side); their wingspans range from about two-and-a-half to four feet (again, Crow is the smaller one); and both live almost anywhere they can find food, water and a high place to build a nest. But some of the more easily seen differences are: Raven has more slender, pointed wings than Crow, which are more blunt and squared; Raven has a tail that is long and wedge-shaped, while the tail of Crow looks more like a squared-off fan. If you’re close enough to see details (and never place you or the animal in danger by trying to get too close), you can see Raven’s bill is curved and looks very strong, but Crow has a bill that’s more slender and straight. Best of all, Raven has a patch of small feathers at the top, back of his bill that looks like an ungroomed mustache and some shaggy feathers under the neck that fluff out when he’s calling. Maybe Raven believes those ’70’s facial hair styles are coming back.

Both Crows and Ravens are omnivores – they will eat almost anything they can find. Crows are often less picky and happy with things most animals wouldn’t consider eating. Ravens, however prefer more interesting food like insects and dead animals. Both Ravens are Crows are very smart and brave. They can solve puzzles, like how to reach food or get into other things they should probably leave alone, and will chase away owls and hawks. Crows are more social, almost always seen with dozens or hundreds of others, while ravens prefer to go solo or with a very few friends.

They can both make many different calls and sounds, but a Crow is more of a “caw”   American Crow

American Crow WIKI

Caw Caw Caw. I may not have a big vocabulary but I'm consistent.

and the Raven is something like a “croak” or “curp”   Common Raven

Common Raven  WIKI

Creak, Croak, Thrrip, you name it I can say it.

There are many places to learn more about ravens and crows, including your local library. Here are a few:

Posted February 5, 2012 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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