Thursday, February 17, 2011

Nevermore... Will you mistake a Raven from a Crow!

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my... ceiling?

If you've ever studied next to the windows on the higher floors of Geisel (or tried to take a mid-day nap while pretending to study), you may have heard scuttling above or below you. Look out the window. See anything unusual?

A raven's nest on an upper floor of Geisel, as viewed from below.
UCSD's citizens of the sky include a variety of birds including gulls, wrens, sparrows, ravens and most infamously of all the blackbird. (Come springtime, if you don't already know what I mean by "infamous", you will-- Price Center bird will have it's revenge!). But then there are those larger black birds that you often hear cawing from lamp posts and oddly enough, the ledges of Geisel. Are they crows or ravens? There's an easy way to distinguish and identify between the two if you have some patience and a good eye. Binoculars are always a plus.

"I see you. You're totally on Facebook right now."

Here is a chart with key differences between ravens and crows and features you can look out for when trying to identify your big black birds
Wingspan3.5-4 feet on average2.5 feet on average
Body size24-27 inches from head to tail
Approximately 40 ounces in weight
17 inches from head to tail, on average
Approximately 20 ounces in weight
ColorationHighly glossed plumage showing iridescent greens, blues, and purplesFeathers with iridescent purple and blue, but with less sheen than the raven
Tail shapeTail tapers off to a point, much like a diamond.Tail is wider and more fan-shaped
Call soundLower in tone, more gutteral "Awk!"Higher pitched, "Caw!"
* Research cited from the University of Washington

These physical features are especially easy to distinguish during flight when the wings are extended away from the body and the tail is being used for steering and balance. Ravens also are capable of aerial somersaults while in flight!

A raven outside of the Geisel Library dock.

Here's a video of a raven calling from a tree in Marshall College:

Until next time... "The wilderness must be explored! CAW CAW! RAWR!" :)

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