Ravens In Pittsburgh!

Raven in Schenley Park, 4 Jan 2021 (photos by Andrea Lavin Kossis)

13 January 2021

The smartest bird in the western hemisphere, the common raven (Corvus corax), has come to town and is claiming nest sites in the City of Pittsburgh. Ravens have been seen in Schenley Park, above, and are regularly found at Forbes Avenue in Frick Park. This is a big deal because…

Common ravens were extirpated from eastern North America by 1900. After 1950 they slowly recolonized remote areas of the north and Appalachians but were rarely seen in eastern cities. We were very surprised when a pair showed up at Brunot’s Island in October 2007 and eventually nested there. Since then, very slowly, ravens have become more visible in Pittsburgh.

Common raven flies by Western Penitentiary, 13 Oct 2007 (photo by Chuck Tague)

Ted Floyd, editor of the ABA’s Birding Magazine, sparked a discussion of city ravens in his blog post: How to Know the Birds: No. 51, The Impossible Raven.

Ted has Pittsburgh roots from the time when ravens were scarce, but now lives in Boulder, Colorado where ravens are common in town. His tweet prompted lots of feedback from Pittsburgh birders.

Michelle Kienholz contributed video of ravens at Forbes Ave in Frick Park including a second video of a raven “whispering” sweet nothings to his/her mate. (Michelle’s remark refers to a photo of the raven diorama at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History taken by Mike Fialkovich.)

[When the car noise abates briefly at 0:19 below you can almost hear what the raven is saying, a muted “whup … whup”.]

Watch and listen for ravens in the city. “Brock! Brock!”

(photos by Andrea Lavin Kossis and Chuck Tague plus embedded tweets)

10 thoughts on “Ravens In Pittsburgh!

  1. Yes, Ravens are here in the Burgh. I unexpectedly saw two last week in Ben Avon Borough. I was walking across a bridge and I first heard them and looked up as they were flying along the ravine I was crossing maybe a couple hundred feet above me and about 100 yards apart. The first one caught a good updraft and started soaring much like a Redtail Hawk does. The second one tried hard to catch the same updraft but failed to do so and finally after a lot of hard flapping gave up.
    It was pretty cool to watch.

  2. Funny. I just happened to see my first ravens up close yesterday here in Belmar, NJ. We seem to have a resident pair for the first time (as far as I’m aware) this year. I have been keen to see one up close for years now. One was perched in a tree. A second one landed right next to the first and bent its head in front of the first bird to request allopreening which ensued. Previous to the allopreening, the first bird “puffed up” (broadened its shoulders, etc..) at least 2 times. I’m guessing that there is a little bit of courtship/pair bonding going on here. It was so thrilling. Now I have to go looking for them again of course. They have me hooked. I want to see more and hear them!

  3. Meanwhile, here in Southern CA, in Big Bear, a pair of nesting eagles lost their first egg to a pair of ravens. We have a fair number of ravens here.

  4. We have ravens in Freeport – I think they may be nesting on the railroad bridge over the Allegheny near the Kiski junction. I love hearing their distinctive croak!

  5. I’ve seen ravens several times over the last couple of years here in Aspinwall. I recognized them from their size and the diamond shaped tails. I have noticed them flying out to railroad bridge that extends from the Riverfront Park here.

    1. Andrew, I’ve noticed ravens at that railroad bridge for many years. I bet they nest there.

    2. Awesome! Good to have confirmation. I had wondered if they had a nest there because I’d seen ravens flying out to the bridge several times over the past couple of years.

  6. I live in Scott Twp. And over the past year I’ve caught glimpses of what appear to be ravens flying near my house. But I’ve never been sure. Today it was pretty unmistakable, a black bird bigger than a crow smaller than a vulture with a spade shaped tail rising on a thermal. But, believing that they weren’t in the area I still had doubts. This post confirms my suspicions though. Thanks!

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