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The raven is a member the Corvidae family, which includes jays, crows and magpies. It is the largest species of songbird and largest all-black bird in the world. In Alaska, they are often confused with a hawk, or the much smaller crow. Ravens have large, stout bills and a wedge-shaped tail, visible best in flight. They also have a well-developed ruff of feathers on the throat, which are called 'hackles'.
Ravens are known for their intelligence and complex social dynamics. They are among the most intelligent birds and can learn by watching, solve problems using logic, and recognize different human and raven individuals.
The raven can produce an amazing assortment of sounds including mews, whistles, high-pitched cries, “glooks”, dripping water sounds, and the trademark “kaw”.
Ravens often form loose flocks during the day and congregate for roosting at night. They do not undertake long migrations like many birds, but breeding birds usually relocate for nesting each year.
When not breeding, they may travel 30 to 40 miles each day from roost to daytime feeding areas.
Ravens are mainly scavengers, consuming a wide variety of both plant and animal matter. They are also common visitors to garbage dumps. Ravens will hide or cache food supplies, and will raid other raven caches. Like owls and hawks, they also regurgitate indigestible food in the form of a pellet.
Ravens first breed at about three or four years of age, and mate for life. They begin to display courtship behavior in mid-January, and by mid-March adult pairs are roosting near their nesting locations. The female lays three to seven eggs, which only she incubates. She is fed by the male while on the nest. The chicks hatch after about three weeks and grow quickly, leaving the nest about four weeks after hatching. Both parents feed the young by regurgitating food and water that is stored in a throat patch.
Ravens are common in Alaska and often congregate near human settlements during non-breeding times. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act was amended in 1972 to include Corvids, giving federal protection to these species.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
University of Michigan Museum of Zoology Animal Diversity Web
Alaska Department of Fish and Game