Ravens: Facts, Photos, Videos and Mythology

A common raven in the Grand Canyon, Arizona
A common raven in the Grand Canyon, Arizona | Source

An Impressive Bird of Nature and Folklore

The raven is a fascinating and intelligent bird linked to a rich mythology. It's a relative of the crow - another clever bird - but is larger in size. In this article I'll discuss the common raven, or Corvus corax. This bird plays a significant role in the mythology of the First Nations people in British Columbia. It also continues to surprise scientists as new aspects of its intelligence are discovered.

The common raven has a wide distribution in North America and lives in many different habitats. The bird is also found in Europe, Asia and North Africa. It's often seen at sea level but tends to prefer higher elevations. Occasionally I see a pair of ravens that live on a forested mountain near my home and sometimes fly over my neighbourhood. Their appearance is always a treat for me.

The call of the raven is sometimes described as a long "croak". I think that the call is haunting and beautiful, however, especially compared to the raucous calls of the local crows. I see crows on a daily basis, but ravens not so often. Although ravens are abundant in some areas, they always seem like slightly mysterious birds to me.

A common raven in flight
A common raven in flight | Source

White Ravens at Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island

Corvus corax: The Common Raven

Appearance

The common raven is the largest member of the crow family in North America. It's a sturdy bird with a thick bill and powerful wings. The upper half of the bill is curved and points downwards. The raven's feathers are black in colour and have a glossy appearance under some lighting conditions. The bird has longer feathers on its throat, which are known as hackles, and nasal bristles on the first half of its upper bill. Its wedge-shaped tail helps to distinguish it from crows.

The average length of an adult common raven (from the tip of the beak to the end of the tail) is 24 inches. The average weight is around 2.6 pounds. The different subspecies have slightly different body sizes and features.

Flight

Ravens are very acrobatic fliers. They often glide instead of fly, and when they do fly their wing beats are shallower and slower than those of crows. Ravens often perform somersaults and rolls in the air and are said to be able to fly upside down for short distances. They are frequently seen dropping sticks or other objects in the air and then diving to catch them, an activity that looks very much like play.

Differences Between Ravens and Crows

A common raven in British Columbia
A common raven in British Columbia | Source

Diet and Foraging Behaviour

Common ravens are usually seen singly, in pairs or in small groups. In some places they may form large gatherings as they forage for food or while they are roosting. They produce a variety of vocalizations to communicate with each other and to send signals to other animals.

Ravens are very adaptable birds and are seen in a wide variety of habitats and climates. While its crow cousins forage in areas frequented by humans, the raven prefers wild areas. There are reports that it is becoming more tolerant of nearby humans, however.

Ravens have an omnivorous diet and eat many types of foods. These include small mammals, other birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, fruits, grains and buds. They also eat mammal carrion, which may be their major food source. They have been observed eating the afterbirth of farm animals. If they find a source of food that is too large for them to eat at one time, they'll hide the remains for future use.

Ravens sometimes cooperate when hunting to draw the prey out into the open. They also cooperate when trying to raid seabird nests. One raven will distract the adult seabird while the other flies in for the kill.

A Clever Bird

Reproduction

Common ravens mate for life. The birds are territorial and protect their territory from interlopers. They reproduce once a year. They generally build their nest in trees or on cliffs, but some birds nest on structures made by humans, such as bridges.

The female raven lays her eggs during late winter or spring, depending on the climate. The average number of eggs in a clutch is 5. The eggs are incubated for 20 to 25 days before the babies hatch. Only the female incubates the eggs, but both the male and the female care for the youngsters.

The young ravens leave the nest when they are five to seven weeks old, but like juvenile crows they don't leave their parents immediately. Their parents continue to feed them, although this activity weakens as the youngsters mature. The juveniles learn important behaviours during this time as a family. The young birds breed for the first time when they are 2 to 4 years old.

Ravens can potentially live for a long time, but reports of their maximum lifespan are very different. Estimates vary from 13 to more than 40 years, with the higher number representing the lifespan of captive birds.

Ravens and Humans

Raven Mythology

Ravens are associated with a rich folklore in many cultures, sometimes in association with crows. I'm especially interested in their role in the myths of the indigenous people of British Columbia. Ravens are often depicted as deities or as beings with access to deities in the legends of BC First Nations people. They are also depicted as clever tricksters.

The Haida are an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest region of North America. In their legends, Raven is a complex character who existed before the beginning of time. He was responsible for releasing humans into the world, which happened in the archipelago of Haida Gwaii. Legend says that Raven found tiny humans inside a clam or oyster shell. He opened the shell, allowing the humans to escape.

Here are many Raven legends in Haida mythology. In addition to releasing humans, Raven brought light to the world. There are different versions of the story that describes how this happened. Raven is not always so benign, however. He's a mischievous being who can bring either order or chaos to the universe.

The Raven is the most greedy, mischievous and lecherous creature imaginable, but almost without meaning to, teaches humans the arts of living a good life.

— Canadian Museum of History

Haida Gwaii was once known as the Queen Charlotte Island and the Charlottes. In 2010, the archipelago was officially renamed out of respect for its original inhabitants. In the map above, the upper "island" off the coast of mainland British Columbia is the Haida Gwaii archipelago.

Raven and the First Humans: The Story of Haida Gwaii

The Mountaintop: A Poem About the Realm of Ravens

I think that there is something magical about the top-of-the-world sensation experienced on a mountaintop. The echoing calls of ravens piercing the silence add to the magic. Whenever I think of the quietness of a mountain summit in my part of the world, I always hear the cry of a raven in my mind.

I wrote the poem below as part of a writing challenge. Writers were asked to create a poem or story based on their reaction to a photo. The photo showed a woman on a mountaintop looking in apparent awe at the view.

I often experience this awe as I look at my surroundings from the top of a mountain. Although I always love the feeling of being connected to nature that I experience, I sometimes hope for a deeper understanding of reality. My character in the poem below is experiencing this desire. The joy and wonder in the woman's discoveries have prompted a yearning for even more revelations. These revelations are brought to her by a raven.

A Bill Reid sculpture depicting a Haida legend in which Raven opens an oyster shell and finds the first humans
A Bill Reid sculpture depicting a Haida legend in which Raven opens an oyster shell and finds the first humans | Source

The Engine of the Soul

The summit of her love

and awe in majesty

Beauty magnified with joy

pulsating through her soul

as tears of yearning flowed

desiring more than she could feel

the source of nature's power

and hidden streams of truth


Raven imperious

A bird of wisdom and device

Sonorous in flight

cascading silence in his wake


She let the silence in

to calm her restless mind

and found the All inside

expanding out of time


The universe as one

forever here and now

she and All That Is

infinity within

The heart of space and time

the engine of the soul


Reclaimed by Earth and time

her partner's gentle touch

She turned and saw him smile

connection at its best

The universe in love -

a focal point in time

© 2014 Linda Crampton

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Comments 58 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

A very interesting approach to the challenge. Thank you so much for taking part in it in a unique and beautiful way. Well done my friend. I loved this.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you so much for the comment, Bill. I appreciate it. Thank you very much for creating such a stimulating and enjoyable challenge, too. I loved participating in it!


sallybea profile image

sallybea 2 years ago from Norfolk

I second Billy's comment, definitely a very interesting and different approach to the challenge he set you. I especially enjoyed the last verse of the poem. Well done I enjoyed this hub.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks, Sally. I appreciate your visit and comment!


bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi Linda. I was fascinated with the facts about the Raven, what an incredibly intelligent bird. And what a pleasant surprise at the end with this wonderful poem in response to Bill's challenge. Well done. Excellent choice of great video's.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the kind comment, Bill! I appreciate it so much.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Oh, Linda, your poetry is brilliant and beautiful. How creative. You have certainly lived up to the challenge and then some! I loved learning about the Raven, and especially learning the difference between crows and ravens. Fascinating hub here and with a special and surprising bonus at the end. Love this so much.

Voted up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

Blessings


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you so much, Faith! I appreciate your lovely comment, the votes and all the shares very, very much. Blessings to you. I hope the week ahead is wonderful for you.


Harishprasad profile image

Harishprasad 2 years ago from India

Raven is a being I was ever curious of. Great to know of this wonderful creature through your equally wonderful write up. What to tell of somersaults in the air while dropping and picking up a thing, what a joy to watch such an spectacle ! Alicia, when I finished relishing this beautiful tale about Ravens, another bliss was waiting for me- your soulful poem.A great response to Bill's challenge. Thanks for sharing such pleasant sensations with us. Voted up and shared.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Harishprasad. Thank you very much for the lovely comment, the vote and the share. I am very grateful for your visit!


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

A beautiful hub from you. Interesting about these type of birds and your story held my attention. Voted up, useful and interesting.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 2 years ago from Dubai

Ravens are intelligent birds who are very skilled and do so many amazing things that other birds cannot. Great article about the ravens and a wonderful poem. Great hub, voted up.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment and the votes, Devika.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Vellur. I agree - ravens are amazing birds! I appreciate your comment and vote.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

Well I love this--but was really struck by your poem--just beautiful writing!!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you so much, Audrey. I appreciate the comment a great deal, especially coming from you. I love your poetry!


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

Great information about the crows and ravens, for me these birds always seem to have an air of mysticism about them. I blame Poe and Nevermore. Your poem is exquisite.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, tobusiness. The connection between ravens and mysticism is very interesting to explore! Thank very much for the kind comment about my poem.


bradjames1983 profile image

bradjames1983 2 years ago from Southend-on-Sea

Great poem and really insightful and concise information regarding the raven, an elusive and mysterious bird. Crows and magpies are often seen but ravens are not so much, though of course in the UK they will ever be associated with The Tower of London and the myth that if they were ever to depart, the Tower (London as well perhaps) would fall.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, bradjames1983. Thank you for the visit. I appreciate your comment. The myth about the Tower of London ravens is very interesting! I've heard about the idea that the Tower would fall if the ravens left, but not about the idea that London might fall as well. Thanks for sharing the information!


Anil and Honey profile image

Anil and Honey 2 years ago from Kerala

Nice, pictures are joyful.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, Anil and Honey.


klidstone1970 profile image

klidstone1970 2 years ago from Niagara Region, Canada

Linda, I love your take on Bill's challenge. Very creative! Great information and your poem is just beautiful.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment, Kim!


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 2 years ago from Peru, South America

This is an interesting answer to Bill´s challenge. It caught my attention because I love Edgar Allen Poe´s poem "The Raven" and I´ve always been fascinated with the raven´s ability to imitate sounds and even the human voice. Thanks!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for the visit, vespawoolf. Ravens are definitely fascinating!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

Hi Alicia, I loved your connection between the Raven and the Mountain photo, and your poem was lovely too, amazing!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much, Nell! I appreciate your visit and comment.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 2 years ago from malang-indonesia

Beautiful bird. I really enjoy reading your hub. Including wonderful pictures. You always give the best to your reader. Good job, my friend. My vote always for you.

Prasetio

Nb: Alicia, I love your new profile picture


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks so much, Prasetio! I appreciate your comment about the hub and my new profile picture.


SandyMertens profile image

SandyMertens 2 years ago from Frozen Tundra

Interesting facts about the raven. Love the poem too.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for the visit and the comment, Sandy.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

You managed to include your lessons on nature with your creative writing. I have never really appreciated the raven but seeing it in this way makes me have some understanding of its purpose. You brought a new angle to the challenge from Bill.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Dianna. Thank you very much for visiting and for the comment.


Ann1Az2 profile image

Ann1Az2 2 years ago from Orange, Texas

Praises from Bill are always wonderful! And it is a great poem and great background on the raven. I always wondered what the difference was between ravens and crows. You may have gotten the wonder of mystery from Edgar Allen Poe's infamous "The Raven." He sort of memorialized the raven.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Ann1Az2. Thanks for the comment about the poem and hub. My inspiration actually came from nature. I've admired the pair of ravens that I see only occasionally and that live on a somewhat isolated mountain near my home for a long time. I expect the raven legends that are part of the culture of the indigenous people in my area played a role, too!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

So creative, attaching the call of the raven to the natural setting of the picture. Excellent work!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much, MsDora! I appreciate your kind comment.


David Stone1 profile image

David Stone1 2 years ago from New York City

I always find nature's creations that stand out like Ravens do as interesting subjects for figuring out what evolution is up to. It seems to me, the long roll of biological history has created a character as unique as a cat and as elusive as a myth. I got a much better sense of this bird from your detailed article.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, David Stone1. Thank you very much for the comment. The raven certainly does stand out! It's a fascinating animal.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON

You befriended two birds with a same bait.

I liked this approach of writing a piece on ravens and on Billybuc's challenge in one hub.

I love ravens and had very pleasant experience of observing them on top of the grandfather mountain, near Boone in NC.

And that poem - simply awesome!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment about the hub and the poem, Suhail. I appreciate it a great deal! Like you, I love ravens. They are very interesting to observe.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

Terrific facts about ravens and a wonderful poem at the end. Very well done! It captures the essence of the photo entirely.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you so much, Flourish. I appreciate your comment a great deal!


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Ravens are truly remarkable birds, as are all corvids, really. I have written a huber of pieces on this highly intelligent individuals, as they really ARE individuals, and obviously, very sentient beings. You did a very nice piece on the ravens, and there is always much to learn in their world.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Deb. Yes, corvids are fascinating birds, especially since they are so intelligent. I love observing and learning about them. Thanks for the visit and the comment.


CarolynEmerick profile image

CarolynEmerick 2 years ago

Great article, Alicia! Loved all the info, photos, and video. Yes, they are very prominent in mythology. Maybe because of their great intelligence and association with death, which always plays heavily in myth. Upvoted, shared here on HP and on facebook :-)


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much, Carolyn! I appreciate your comment, vote and shares a great deal.


aesta1 profile image

aesta1 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

The haunting call of the raven sometimes scares me that when I look at the bird, I think of death. It gives me shivers. I am happy to know more about this bird and its significance to the Haidas.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, aesta1. The call of the raven is certainly haunting. I think it's a lovely sound, though. Thanks for the comment and for sharing your thoughts.


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 21 months ago from Texas

How lovely, your poem! I didn't make the initial connection to your interesting facts about ravens and Bill's challenge. It's like two hubs in one!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 21 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, shanmarie! I appreciate your visit and comment very much.


adevwriting profile image

adevwriting 16 months ago from United Countries of the World

Good thing I came across this hub. The raven was described informatively and the poem was very good!

Thanks!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 16 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, adevwriting. Thank you for the comment about the information and the poem!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 13 months ago from Dallas, Texas

Birds are truly fascinating creatures, each with their different calls, colors and habits. What a rich and interesting bird, the raven. We have a trio of them that have been around for years, always hanging around together, flying over, sitting at the top of tall cypress trees, making their unique cawing noise as they fly over. I often wonder what their life span is and whether they are the same three who have been coming around for years.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 13 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Peg. I find it especially interesting when I see ravens and crows together near my home. They make an interesting combination! Thanks for the comment.


Anita Hasch profile image

Anita Hasch 2 weeks ago from Port Elizabeth

Hi Linda, I love your poem. I stood with you on the mountain. Very interesting hub on ravens.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the visit and the kind comment, Anita.

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    Linda Crampton (AliciaC)1,250 Followers
    427 Articles

    Linda Crampton is a teacher who enjoys reading and creative writing. Her favourite genres are classic literature, fantasy, myth and poetry.



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