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Ravens: Interesting Facts, Photos, Videos, and Mythology

Linda Crampton is a writer and experienced science teacher with an honors degree in biology. She enjoys writing about science and nature.

A common raven in the Grand Canyon, Arizona

A common raven in the Grand Canyon, Arizona

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 discuss the common raven (Corvus corax). This bird plays a significant role in the mythology of the First Nations people in British Columbia, where I live. It 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. A pair of ravens live on a forested mountain near my home. Occasionally, I see them flying over my neighbourhood. Very rarely, I see them on the ground near my home. Their appearance is always a treat for me.

The call of the raven is often described as a long "croak". I think that the call is haunting and beautiful, despite its rather unattractive name, 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 Jasper National Park, Alberta

A common raven in Jasper National Park, Alberta

Facts About the Common Raven

Physical Features

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 bird's feathers are generally black in colour and have a glossy appearance under some lighting conditions.

The raven 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, which have fan-shaped tails. The difference is shown in the video below.

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.

Gliding and Flying

Ravens are very acrobatic fliers. They often glide instead of fly. 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. The birds 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.

The ravens and northwestern crows (Corvus caurinus or Corvus brachyrhynchos caurinus) that live in my area belong to the same genus but different species. Some scientists believe that the crow is actually a subspecies of the American crow and should be referred to by the second scientific name given above.

Diet and Foraging Behaviour

Common ravens are usually seen singly, in pairs, or in small groups. In some places, they form large gatherings as they forage for food or while they are roosting (perched in a safe place to sleep). 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 food. Their diet includes 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 hide the remains for future use.

The birds 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. The video below shows a raven who is determined to get to food meant for others.

Ravens are confident, inquisitive birds that strut around or occasionally bound forward with light, two-footed hops.

— Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Reproduction Facts

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 Nest and Eggs

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says that the female does most of the work required to build a nest, though the male may "bring some sticks" to help her. A nest from a previous year may be used, but not necessarily by the couple that built the nest. The female lays her eggs during late winter or spring, depending on the climate. The average number of eggs in a clutch is five. The eggs are incubated for 20 to 25 days. Only the female incubates the eggs, but both the male and the female care for the youngsters that hatch.

The Young Ravens

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 two to four 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.

White Ravens in British Columbia

Ravens are nearly always black in colour. The video below shows some very unusual white ravens seen at Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The birds have blue eyes as well as white feathers and aren't albinos.

The white ravens were seen regularly in the community for a while and appeared to be produced by one mating pair, which were black. In 2014, the white birds disappeared. In 2018, however, another one was seen in the community of Coombs, which is located not far from Qualicum Beach.

Scientists says that the colour is probably due to a genetic anomaly that prevents the birds from making the melanin pigments that colour its feathers. Unfortunately, the white birds don't seem to live for long. This may be due to other genetic problems or to the fact that the black birds consider the white ones to be subordinate and pick on them. There is no evidence that the black birds deliberately kill the white ones, though.

The Raven in Haida 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 and the Raven

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.

A Significant Sculpture

An artistic representation of the event mentioned above was created in the late 1970s and early 1980s by Bill Reid (1920–1998). It’s entitled The Raven and the First Men. Bill Reid was a British Columbian sculptor whose mother was a member of the Haida Nation. He designed the sculpture and did some of the carving, but he also directed other artists who helped him. This was probably because the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease had appeared in the artist. The sculpture that the group created is shown in the video and the photo below. It’s located in the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

The Raven Character

Haida mythology contains many Raven legends. In addition to releasing humans, he brought light to the world. There are different versions of the story that describe 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 bird is a powerful and very intriguing character that is fascinating to explore.

The Haida Gwaii archipelago was once known as Queen Charlotte Island and the Charlottes. In 2010, it was officially renamed out of respect for its original inhabitants. The archipelago is separated from the mainland of British Columbia by the Hecate Strait and from Alaska by the Dixon Entrance. The story in the video below describes the creation of the first humans in the area

A Poem About the Mountaintop and the Raven

I think that there's 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. The mountain near my home isn't as tall as the nearby Coast Mountains, but it's high enough for the pair of ravens that I mentioned above to make their home. Their distinctive croaking call is always enjoyable to hear.

I wrote the poem below as part of a challenge in which 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. I sometimes hope for a deeper understanding of reality as I view the scene. My character in the poem below is experiencing this desire. The woman's discoveries on the mountaintop have prompted a yearning for even more revelations. These revelations are brought to her by a raven, which may not be surprising considering the background of the bird in nature and mythology.

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

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

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 yet complete

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's desires

her partner's gentle touch

She turned and saw him smile

connection at its best

The universe in love —

a focal point in time


  • Information about the common raven (Corvus corax) from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  • Common raven facts from the National Audubon Society
  • White ravens seen near Qualicum Beach from the Vancouver Sun
  • Haida raven mythology facts from the Canadian Museum of History
  • Facts about Bill Reid’s sculpture from MOA (Museum of Anthropology) at the University of British Columbia

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Linda Crampton


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 20, 2016:

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

Anita Hasch from Port Elizabeth on November 19, 2016:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 25, 2015:

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.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on October 25, 2015:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 21, 2015:

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

Arun Dev from United Countries of the World on July 21, 2015:

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


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 28, 2015:

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

Shannon Henry from Texas on February 28, 2015:

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!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 01, 2014:

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.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on December 01, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 01, 2014:

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

Carolyn Emerick on November 30, 2014:

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 :-)

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 22, 2014:

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.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on November 22, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 20, 2014:

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

FlourishAnyway from USA on November 20, 2014:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 14, 2014:

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.

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on November 14, 2014:

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!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 14, 2014:

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

David Stone from New York City on November 14, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 12, 2014:

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

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on November 12, 2014:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 10, 2014:

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!

Ann1Az2 from Orange, Texas on November 10, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 09, 2014:

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

Dianna Mendez on November 09, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 07, 2014:

Thanks for the visit and the comment, Sandy.

Sandy Mertens from Frozen Tundra on November 07, 2014:

Interesting facts about the raven. Love the poem too.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 07, 2014:

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

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on November 07, 2014:

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.


Nb: Alicia, I love your new profile picture

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 07, 2014:

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

Nell Rose from England on November 07, 2014:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 05, 2014:

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

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on November 05, 2014:

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!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 05, 2014:

Thank you very much for the comment, Kim!

இڿڰۣ-- кιмвєяℓєу from Niagara Region, Canada on November 05, 2014:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 05, 2014:

Thank you, Anil and Honey.

Anil from Kerala on November 05, 2014:

Nice, pictures are joyful.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 04, 2014:

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!

Bradley James Yellop from Southend-on-Sea on November 04, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 04, 2014:

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

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on November 04, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 04, 2014:

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

Audrey Howitt from California on November 04, 2014:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 04, 2014:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 04, 2014:

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

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on November 04, 2014:

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.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on November 04, 2014:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 03, 2014:

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

Harish Mamgain from New Delhi , India on November 03, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 03, 2014:

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.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on November 03, 2014:

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


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 03, 2014:

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

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on November 03, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 03, 2014:

Thanks, Sally. I appreciate your visit and comment!

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on November 03, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 03, 2014:

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!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 03, 2014:

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.