Thursday, October 27, 2011


Crows and ravens----big black birds; considered symbols of life, death, wisdom and evil---they are judged as both intelligent and unsavory. 

While in Grand Teton National Park last month I took some photos of some very large birds I thought were probably ravens. I don’t profess to be a bird expert and was curious about ways to tell the difference between ravens and crows.

Here’s what I gathered from several sources on the internet:  Both are members of the same family, (Corvus) which includes jays and magpies.

Ravens are the largest with a body size close to that of a house cat and with a wing span of around three and a half to four feet.  They have shaggy throat feathers and a large curved bill.  Their tails have a wedge or diamond profile and they have more pointed wings with long finger shaped feathers.  The raven’s most common call is a deep croaking or “cronk-cronk” sound.

American crows are closer to the body size of a squirrel with a wing span of around two and a half feet.  They make the familiar “caw-caw” sound but I’ve also heard them talk to each other with rattles, clicks and even bell-like notes.

Crows have more blunt and splayed wing tips and a fan shaped tail.  Their bill is flatter without the tuft of hairs seen on a raven.

Both are recognized as being some of the most intelligent of birds.  They’ve been seen making tools out of sticks, dropping nuts on pavement to break them and playing pranks on dogs.  They are scavengers and can find food even in the harshest conditions such as the dead of winter in Yellowstone Park.  Ravens have been seen following wild wolf packs to a kill; some stories even have ravens flying ahead of the wolves to lead them to prey.

The Norse god Odin was said to be attended by two ravens named Hugin and Munin who would fly about the world and return to perch on his shoulders and whisper gossip in his ears.  Inuit stories say the god Raven made all things, creating light out of mica flakes and humans out of rock. 

Native Americans have many legends about crows and ravens as both creators and tricksters.

For my post about an encounter between a crow and a squirrel at our place,

The illustrations are my watercolors.  They are for sale on my Etsy site. 
Click on the link or on the red icon, upper left on this page.


TexWisGirl said...

the photos were beautiful enough, but your watercolors are just lovely! i can imagine how difficult crows and ravens would be to control the varying shades of black and grey! nicely done!

Leauxra said...

I adore ravens. Crows are cool, too, but I love ravens. There are quite a few in the area where I live, and I run in to them in Rocky Mountain National Park on a regular basis.

There is a huge difference between the two, but I have never bothered to articulate it other than, "Ravens are... rougher."

Ravens are also big imitators, and can talk as well or better than parrots when people keep them as pets.

Uhh... sorry to get all Raven nerdy on you. Your pictures are really lovely. But if you want to know more about them, read "Mind of the Raven" by Bernd Heinrich.

Linda Sue said...

Crows are so smart they are scary! Your paintings are not scary! Your paintings are awesome and I do love the "BEST" photo of jars - fabulous!

Pearl said...

Oh, Leenie I absolutel LOVE that top painting. I don't believe it. :-)

My brother, a veritable fount of "information", claims that if you catch a crow, and split its tongue (ack!) down the middle, that it will speak just like a humna.

:-) Yeah. Luckily, he does not have a crow as a pet.


Jeannelle said...

Excellent photos and info! Brought to mind, "Quoth the Raven, nevermore...". Congrats on your blog recognition, too!

Debbie said...

congrat' must feel like a rock star!!

beautiful pictures, really special!!

Sarah said...

Well done on the recommendation!
Your raven and crow paintings are beautiful. I could hear crows cawing as I read about them on your blog! I do love watching them-fascinating birds. We get lots of crows at work. I have seen ravens in the tower of London. I love jackdaws, jays and even the much criticised magpie. A woman I used to know told me about how her father, who was a vicar, found a baby crow and reared it, running around in his garden in his cassock, flapping his arms trying to teach it to fly!

Buttons said...

Oh Leenie CONGRATULATIONS I am so happy for you. Your work is amazing and I love the way you can fit them in with a wealth of information.
I do know ravens are smart they are seen everywhere enjoying their lives while us people on the ground stumble through life and learn lessons. The raven seems to have already learned all his. Great shots and the art fantastic. B

Leenie said...

Pearl: I don't know about crows, but I've heard that said about magpies. However, there's no need to do anything to their tongues. We had several pet magpies at different times when I was growing up. Some of them learned several words from us kids.

CeeCee said...

I never thought much about crows until I met one (someone's illegal pet). I was so taken with his intelligence and wit.
There is a pair that nests about 1/2 mile from here. I soooo wish they'd nest closer. Such cool birds!
Your paintings are wonderful! So lifelike.

CeeCee said...

Aaacckk! Left out my congratulations on your 'best of the web' award.

susan m hinckley said...

Best of the web, indeed! But we knew that -- glad we're not the only ones. And you know how I feel about all birds in the "black" family. Thanks for sharing more of my favorite Leenie watercolors (the one in my family room has found a very happy perch, incidentally).

Anzu said...

You can develop the grace and coolness from the crows.
Your wonderful pictures comes to mind when seeing crows in my town recently.ヾ(@Θ@)

CarrieBoo said...

Well, congrats Leenie, on getting featured like that! I was watching a documentary about crows and how crazy smart they are - I have a whole new appreciation for the crow and raven since then. My Blue Jay has been back since the weather got cold. I hadn't thought of that colourful blue bird being from the same family, but you can definitely tell how smart he is. And usually alone, unlike all the others I see.

Your artwork is just beautiful.

If I ordered from Ontario, would they charge me that annoying border fee, do you know? Thanks!

Samantha said...

I love all the watercolors. I can't decide which I lost most!
Crows are one of my very favorite birds.

Terry and Linda said...

We have lots of crows here, but we do get the radom flock of ravens. Ravens are larger and seem to be fluffier, or scruffer than the crows.

Love your photos and watercolors as always!


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