Archive for the 'Crows & Ravens' Category

Sep 08 2016

The Sound of a Human Voice

Juvenile common raven (photo by M.I.K.E. via Shutterstock)

Juvenile common raven (photo from Shutterstock)

On Throw Back Thursday:

I heard the sound of a human voice calling “Ho!”  It was actually …

A Human Voice


(photo from Shutterstock)

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May 20 2016

The Blue Jay’s Courtship Sounds

Blue jays are making interesting sounds and gestures lately but what do they mean?

In the spring I often hear blue jays say “tweedle” and, on rare occasions, I see one bounce and gurgle.

Tweedle? Gurgle?  Lesley the Bird Nerd explains it all in this 4-minute video.


(video by Lesley the Bird Nerd on YouTube)



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May 06 2016

Recognize Individual Blue Jays

Lesley The Bird Nerd” has photographed backyard birds for a long time.  She’s especially fond of blue jays and discovered that photos help her identify the jays as individuals.

Each blue jay has a different face!

Watch her video and learn how to do it yourself.  (You’ll need a camera.)


(video from LesleyTheBirdNerd on YouTube)

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Apr 15 2016

Raven Solves A Problem


Common ravens (Corvus corax) are known for their intelligence and problem solving abilities.

This one solved his own problem, though he created trouble for humans and dogs in the process.  😉


(video from The Raven Diaries on YouTube)

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Mar 11 2016

Ravens Dance?

Lots of birds puff their head feathers and stand erect to show their dominance.  Common ravens do it, too.

When Zachary Cava filmed three ravens interacting in the Mojave Desert he thought they might be courting.  Was this courtship or was something very different going on?

Cornell’s Birds of North America explains that among common ravens,

The highest level of dominance is displayed by slowly walking highly erect with bill pointed upward, fluffing out throat hackles and [fluffing] feather tracts above legs to create “pant”-like appearance, elevating “ear” tufts, and flashing white nictitating membranes. Wings are spread slightly at the shoulders. Both males and females engage in this behavior, but it is more pronounced in males.  (credit: Bernd Heinrich)

Yes, these two ravens are working out who’s in charge.  So why is the third one bowing low with his head puffed up?

His actions resemble the male’s pair bond display to the female(*) but he’s got his back to the other two and they aren’t paying much attention.

Ravens don’t dance … or do they?


(video from YouTube by Zachary Cava)

(*) “In direct display to female, also fluffs out head, bows to female while spreading wings and tail, flashes white nictitating membranes, makes gurgling or choking sounds, and snaps bill.”  — credit Cornell Birds of North America

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Feb 17 2016

Peregrines Claim The Bridge … Maybe

Ravens & Peregrine Falcons 1

Peregrine falcons and common ravens have a long history of nesting near each other. Both favor cliff ledges with similar qualities and will nest 100-200 meters apart (1-2 football fields).  They’ll even take over each others’ unused nest sites, but they don’t get along.

Peregrines harass ravens though they rarely hurt them.  Ravens are big and powerful and very acrobatic in flight.

Since 2007 a peregrine pair has nested over the Ohio River on one of two bridges: the Monaca-East Rochester Bridge (Rt. 51), or the enormous Monaca-Beaver railroad bridge.  In 2015 they nested on the east tower of the railroad bridge (Monaca side) and fledged two young.

Ravens are rare in Pennsylvania’s urban areas but they do nest on railroad bridges, laying their eggs in late February a month before the peregrines nest.

Last Friday, February 12, Gina Rubino was watching a raven build a nest on the west arch (Beaver side) of the Monaca-Beaver railroad bridge when two peregrines showed up.  She recorded three videos.  Above, a raven builds the nest on the near arch, then perches on top of the arch and takes shelter when a peregrine zooms past.

Below, two peregrines harass the raven who again takes shelter in the bridge structure. This double-teaming is typical of peregrine-raven interactions.

Ravens & Peregrine Falcons 2


Eventually, the raven pair gets the message and flies off together while a peregrine perches on the far (east) end of the bridge.

Ravens & Peregrine Falcons 3

Do the peregrines want the railroad bridge for their own nest this year? Or are they just annoyed by the ravens, as peregrines often are?

Gina wrote on PABIRDS, “I’m hoping the two groups can settle their differences (I would love to see both successfully nest), but I have my doubts…”

Me, too.


(videos by Gina M. Rubino)

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Feb 11 2016

Capitalism Benefits Brainy Birds?

Published by under Crows & Ravens

American Crow with peanut (photo from Shutterstock by Al Mueller)

American crow with peanut (photo from Shutterstock by Al Mueller)

On Throw Back Thursday:

A 17-year bird study that bridged the end of Communism and the start of capitalism in East Germany and Czechoslovakia showed the mix of species changed. Birds with small brains declined. Birds with big brains thrived.

Does capitalism benefit brainy birds? Click here to find out.


(photo from Shutterstock by Al Mueller)

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Jan 17 2016

Whose Voice Is That?

Blue jays mimic the sounds of raptors to warn (or fool!) other blue jays.

In Pittsburgh they often mimic red-tailed hawks.  In Florida red-shouldered hawks are much more common so the jays imitate them instead.

This video from MyBackyardBirding in Florida is a good example of how blue jays can sound like red-shouldered hawks.  Can you tell who’s who when they aren’t on screen?

The mourning dove seems to be having a hard time figuring it out.


(video from MyBackyardBirding on YouTube)


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Jan 15 2016

A Conversation Between Two Birds

During the snowy owl irruption two years ago, John Dunstan recorded this video of a raven and a snowy owl having a conversation.

The raven says many things.  The snowy owl is unimpressed.

Notice at 1:20 in the video that the top of the raven’s head seems to grow “ears.”  This dominance gesture means “I’m big! Watch out!”  The owl doesn’t care and reaches over to peck the raven at 1:44.  The raven’s ears go down … but up again at 2:09.  What’s going on?

John Dunstan asked raven expert Bernd Heinrich, author of The Mind of the Raven, for an explanation and put Heinrich’s reply in the video description:

Naturalist Bernd Heinrich, author of “The Mind of the Raven”, was nice enough to provide this description.

Hi John,
The first thing to notice is that the owl is TOTALLY unimpressed. It’s not scared in the least, and the raven has no aggressive intentions, but starts out being just curious – like: “what the hell is This!” So it tests – tries to get a reaction. But the owl still stays totally nonchalant. At some point the raven then tries a different tactic – it puts on its “I’m a big guy” display of erect “ear” feathers – usually used to show status in the presence of potential superiors, but here used also with a bowing and wing-flaring, which is used in supplication if there is NOT going to be a challenge – so, yes, I think the raven was having fun, and then also starting to have some respect, because this big white thing was NOT going to cooperate and be its toy. 

The comments on the video are priceless!  Click here to see the video on YouTube and read the comments.


(video by John Dunstan on YouTube)

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Dec 21 2015

The Peanut Challenge

Why is this crow trying so hard to carry three peanuts when he could easily carry two and come back for the rest?

Last Friday Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eNewsletter featured this video from Ontario FeederWatch where a crow was tempted by unshelled peanuts.

Though he could easily carry two, the crow spent more than a minute trying to pick up a third.  At 40 seconds into the video he was salivating so much that he “dripped” onto the platform.

Finally he achieved his goal and flew away.  Two seconds later we see why he had to take so many in one trip.  Competition!

Want to see more?

Located in the Thunder Bay District of Ontario, Ontario FeederWatch runs day and night.  In addition to the crow the cam has recorded a flock of pine grosbeaks, a hungry ruffed grouse, and a night time visit from a northern flying squirrel.

Click here to watch the birds at Ontario FeederWatch.


(video from Cornell Lab’s Ontario FeederWatch)

p.s.  The feeders are in Manitouwadge, Ontario, a town so remote that it’s an 11.5 hour drive from Toronto and 8 hours from Duluth.  Click here (and zoom out) to see it on Google maps.

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