Nature Stuff

Are they ravens or crows in Sydney?

Most people in Sydney think they can identify a crow when they see one, so it might come as a surprise to find out more about these handsome black birds. If you’re in Sydney, that bird which looks like a crow is probably a raven.

Australian Raven

Australian Raven

It’s not easy telling crows and ravens apart just by looking at them. If you want to know, ravens have grey bases to their feathers, while crows have white bases. Which is really helpful if that big black bird is standing on your nose holding its feathers open, but not so good if it’s up a tree or across the road or something. Thankfully, Ravens also distinguish themselves by having longer feathers around their throat, which at least can be noticed from a bit of a distance. Perhaps the best way to tell them apart seems to be from the call they make. The Australian Raven makes a long almost-human-sounding ‘aarrr, aarr, arrrrrrrrrrrrrr’ (that last ‘arrr’ is noticeably drawn out) whereas the Australian crows make a call more like an ‘uk uk uk’ or a ‘nark nark nark’. (I’m thinking, if you don’t know if they’re saying ‘aarrr’ or ‘nark’ then you should ask them to spell it.)

Australian Raven Torresian Crow

1: The long feathers around this bird’s neck help to identify it as an Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides)  2: Torresian Crow (Corvus orru). Don’t pay much attention to the brownish feather colour in this photo — that’s just caused by the colour of the afternoon light. It’s the neck feathers I’m looking at.

I once asked an ornithologist if we had crows or ravens in Sydney and it took him a while before he could come up with an answer. So don’t feel bad if you find this stuff confusing. But now you know all this stuff, I really don’t think people will get too upset if you call a raven a crow.

Up here for thinking

Ravens are intelligent and curious birds. They’re opportunistic feeders, helping themselves to everything from road kill to insects, fruit, grain and small animals. Farmers aren’t exactly fond of them because they can ruin crops and eat seed, and being such smart birds they tend to figure out ways to frustrate all the methods people try to use to control them.

Ravens used to be blamed for killing lambs because they were often seen feeding on them, but it’s now believed they only feed on lambs which are already dead or dying from something else. In some ways, ravens help farmers because they’ll eat lots of grasshoppers and other pest insects.

Australian Ravens hang around in flocks until they’re old enough to pair off to breed, and then they stay with the same partner for the rest of their life.

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