Ravens are massive all-black crows with a strong heavy bill and a long tail that is diamond-shaped in flight. They are much larger than other crows and have a larger bill and a diamond tail compared to the crows’ square tail. Unlike rooks, they have no bare patches on their beak and no feathers on their legs.
Average Length: 60-68 cm
Average Lifespan: 17 Years
Average Wingspan: 120-150 cm
Ravens have a broad diet consisting of carrion, small mammals, small birds, and their eggs and invertebrates. They will occasionally visit bird feeders filled with large nuts or bird tables with food scraps.
Ravens are early breeders and egg laying begins in late February. Before this, the life-long pairs build a large platform made of sticks and lined with softer grasses, roots, and mammal fur. These platforms are placed on bulky branches low down in trees or exposed ledges on cliffs and sometimes on human-made structures. They typically lay between four and six eggs which the female incubates alone for three weeks while the male provides food. After hatching the chicks are fed and looked after for another 39-40 days which means they only produce one brood before the breeding season ends in April.
Persecution of ravens was widespread from the 1600s to the 1800s due to fear and superstition and possibly later due to interactions with landowners. The rise in population since then has allowed the raven to recolonise its former range which has increased conflict with humans. In the UK ravens are now fully protected by law, however there are concerns that illegal population control is occurring. The effect of ravens on other upland and coastal birds is very minimal but licensed control may be needed to help protect birds such as lapwings and curlews.
Petition to protect ravens from illegal, unlicensed killing
Install a feeding table in your garden that crows can feed from as they may damage smaller feeders.
Provide a larger deeper bird bath which they can use to bathe and cool down in the summer.
Ravens are present in folklore around the work, in England tame ravens protect the Tower of London, and should they leave the city will fall. The Irish goddess Morrigan is said to take the form of a raven and Odin, the chief of Norse gods is depicted with a pair of ravens.
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Corvus corax. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/common-raven-corvus-corax. Accessed: 18/09/2023.
British Trust for Ornithology (2023) Raven | BTO - British trust for ornithology. Available at: https://www.bto.org/understanding-birds/birdfacts/raven. Accessed: 18/09/2023.
Bugnyar, T., & Heinrich, B. (2005). Ravens, Corvus corax, differentiate between knowledgeable and ignorant competitors. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 272(1573), 1641–1646. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2005.3144
Fraser, O. N., & Bugnyar, T. (2010) The quality of social relationships in ravens. Animal Behaviour, 79(4), 927–933. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2010.01.008
Kabadayi, C., & Osvath, M. (2017). Ravens parallel great apes in flexible planning for tool-use and bartering. Science, 357(6347), 202–204. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aam8138
RSPB (2023) Common raven bird facts: Corvus Corax, The RSPB. Available at: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/raven/. Accessed: 18/09/2023.