Welcome to the Family

Ravens and Crows belong to the Corvidae, or "Crow", family of birds. This family is comprised of more than just crows, though. It also includes Magpies, Bluejays, Jackdaws, Rooks, Nutcrackers, and several others... over 100 different types of birds, of which only 40 or so are actually "crows". Members of the corvidae family can be found on every continent in the world (with the exception of Antarctica) and are all considered very intelligent birds. They are known for their inventive (and often mischievious) ways, their playful personalites, and their raucous calls.

I'd love to tell you everything there is to know about each of these birds, but I just don't have the resources or the knowledge. So, I'll try to give a brief description of each, and links to files which can tell you more. As well, I'll toss in the scientific names for some of these birds, so you'll have a reference in case you want to look up more specific information on any of them.

(I've also got a list of various corvidae names if it strikes your fancy. See what a group of magpies is called, find out how to say 'Raven' in different languages, or look up the latin (scientific) name of your favorite corvid!)

Skim through the list, or jump ahead to:

Crows   Ravens   Magpies  
Jackdaw   Rook   Jays   Others


Ravens Raven (Corvus Corax - Common Raven)

Approximate size: 65 cm (about 27 inches) long at maturity. About the size of a hawk.
Wingspan: 1.2 - 1.5 meters (about 50-60 inches)
Coloring: Glossy blue-black or purplish black. Some species have white markings as well.
Call: A deep "Kaugh!" although they may learn to imitate a wide variety of sounds.
Eggs: 4 -7 eggs. Greenish blotched with brown.
Range: Throughout most of North Amercia, Asia, many parts of Europe, Coastal Greenland, and North Africa.

Ravens are the largest members of the corvidae family. They can grow to the size of a large hawk, and may live 25 - 50 years (usually on the shorter side in the wild). Although they are often confused with crows, they differ in a number of ways: Physically, ravens are larger than crows, with more angular feathers and tails (click here for more physical differences). They prefer slightly different habitats - Crows will thrive near human centers, while ravens prefer wilder areas. A raven's call is also much deeper than a crow's - a hoarse croaking "Kaugh!" as opposed to the crow's nasal "Kaw!"




Crows Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos - Common Crow)

Approximate size: 40 cm (about 17 inches) long at maturity. About the size of a large pigeon.
Wingspan: A little under 1 meter (around 40 inches)
Coloring: Black all over. Some (such as the hooded crow) may have grey or white shoulders and backs.
Call: A nasal "Caw!"
Eggs: 4 - 7 eggs. Greenish blue, marked with brown.
Range: The American Crow is found throughout most of North America. The Carrion Crow is found throughout Europe.

The Crow is a very common black bird. It can be found all over the world, and adapts well to a variety of habitats. Unlike ravens, which prefer the countryside, crows thrive in cities and will gladly make their nests near large human centers. Crows are about the size of a large pigeon. They can live 5 - 10 years quite easily, but in the wild their lifespan is often shortened by natural predators and environmental hazzards.




Rook Rook (Corvus frugilegus - Rook)

Approximate size: 50 cm (about 20 inches)
Wingspan: 1 - 1.2 meters (about 40 - 45 inches)
Coloring: Black, with greyish beige beak and face
Call:
Eggs: 3 - 5 Eggs. Greyish green, with brown markings.
Range: Northern Europe

The rook is one of the larger corvids, and they can grow to be about 2/3 the size of a raven. Their feathers hang quite loosely on their underside and come a good ways down the legs, giving them a "baggy" appearance. They have a long beak and the feathers on their face are lighter colored than most corvids. All together, this makes them look like the pot-bellied, balding old uncle of the corvid family.
Rooks live together in large colonies which may be made up of thousasnd os individuals. They nest communally, and their roosts are called 'Rookeries'. Some rookeries are known to be centuries old.




Jackdaw Jackdaw (Corvus monedula - Eurasian Jackdaw)

Approximate size: Around 25 cm long (about 10 inches)
Wingspan: 50 cm (about 20 inches)
Coloring: Grey, with lighter grey shoulders.
Call: A musical "Cheow. Cheow"
Eggs: 3 - 5 eggs. Greenish blue, marked with grey.
Range: Throughout most of Europe

Jackdaws are among the smaller members of the Crow family, but every bit as mischievious. They have stubby beaks and are greyer in the shoulders than Crows. They also have very distinctive silvery eyes. Just like Rooks, Jackdaws nest in large colonies.




Magpies Magpie (Pica pica - Common magpie)

Approximate size: 50 cm (about 20 inches), including the long tail.
Wingspan: Around 90 cm (about 37 inches)
Coloring: Black, with distinctive white edged wings and white belly. Irridescent tail.
Call: A harsh 'Mag-mag-mag'
Eggs: 8 - 9 eggs. Greenish Grey, with brown markings.
Range: Europe, parts of Asia, parts of North America

The Common Magpie has very characteristic black and white markings, a long tail, and irridescent green-black feathers. They also have a large repetoire of chirps, calls, and other odd noises in addition to the raucous calls they share with the rest of the corvid family.




Jays Jays (Cyanocitta cristata - BlueJay)

Approximate size: 30 cm (about 13 inches)
Wingspan: Around 65 cm (about 27 inches)
Coloring: Blue with small white and black stripes, and a white belly.
Call: A sharp "Jay! Jay!"
Eggs: 4 - 6 egs. Olive, with brown markings.
Range: Across central and eastern Canada and United States.

There are a wide variety of Jays. The best known, perhaps, is the BlueJay. It has a very distinctive blue, white and black coat with a bright blue crest. The bluejay has a piercing "Jay - Jay!" call.




Others Others

There are a few other members of the corvidae family, but I'm afraid I know relatively little about them. I've scrounged a few names and details, but I'm not an expert on these (nor am I an expert on crows & ravens, really - just a distant admirer. But I digress...), so if you have any more information, I'd be glad to hear about it.

Nutcrackers - very strong beaked birds which live off seeds and nuts.

Choughs - Choughs are very distinctive members of the corvidae family, but they are no longer as abundant as they once were - the population which once numbered well into the thousands is now numbered in the hundreds. They are colonial birds, living mostly along the Irish coasts, and have brightly colored red or yellow beaks.



Not Corvids

The following birds, while they share a few characteristics with the corvids, aren't actually members of the corvidae family.

Blackbirds - these beautiful little birds are members of the Icterinae family. They're much smaller than ravens or crows, and don't sound anything like them at all. The two often share the same habitat, though, and small blackbirds can frequently be seen trying to chase large crows out of their territory.

Currawongs - I've heard currawongs being referred to as a sort of 'Australian raven', but they aren't really corvidae either. They're members of the Cracticidae family. They do look a lot like ravens, though - they're big and black (but with a bright yellow eye) and they share a lot of 'corvid' behaviors.

Australian Magpies - although they are called 'magpies', these birds aren't Corvids, but belong to the Cracticidae family, just like the Currawongs. My sincere apologies for filing them under 'corvids' previously.


Please check out my names file for more species names in each area of the corvidae family.

Visit the Corvidae - Science section for more informative links.


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Last modified Nov 24, 2001