Birds - American Raven
( Originally Published 1904 )
(Corvus corax principalis) Crow family
Called also : NORTHERN RAVEN
Length—26 to 27 inches. Nearly three times as large as a robin.
Male and Female—Glossy black above, with purplish and greenish reflections. Duller underneath. Feathers of the throat and breast long and loose, like fringe.
Range—North America, from polar regions to Mexico. Rare along Atlantic coast and in the south. Common in the west, and very abundant in the northwest.
Migrations—An erratic wanderer, usually resident where it finds its way.
The weird, uncanny voice of this great bird that soars in wide circles, above the evergreen trees of dark northern forests seems to come out of the skies like the malediction of an evil spirit. Without uttering the words of any language—Poe's "Nevermore" was, of course, a poetic license—people of all nationalities appear to understand that some dire calamity, some wicked portent, is being announced every time the unbirdlike creature utters its rasping call. The superstitious folk crow with an "I told you so," as they solemnly wag their heads when they hear of some death in the village after "the bird of ill-omen " has made an unwelcome visit to the neighborhood. It receives the blame for every possible misfortune.
When seen in the air, the crow is the only other bird for which the raven could be mistaken ; but the raven does more sailing and less flapping, and he delights in describing circles as he easily soars high above the trees. On the ground, he is seen to be a far larger bird than the largest crow. The curious beard or fringe of feathers on his breast at once distinguishes him.
These birds show the family instinct for living in flocks large and small, not of ravens only, but of any birds of their own genera. In the art of nest building they could instruct most of their relatives. High up in evergreen trees or on the top of cliffs, never very near the seashore, they make a compact, symmetrical nest of sticks, neatly lined with grasses and wool from the sheep pastures, adding soft, comfortable linings to the old nest from year to year for each new brood. When the young emerge from the eggs, which take many curious freaks of color and markings, they are pied black and white, suggesting the young of the western white-necked raven, a similarity which, so far as plumage is concerned, they quickly outgrow. They early acquire the fortunate habit of eating whatever their parents set before them—grubs, worms, grain, field-mice; anything, in fact, for the raven is a conspicuously omnivorous bird.