Common raven

Common raven
Corvus corax.001 - Tower of London.JPG
Scientific classification edit
C. corax
Binomial name
Corvus corax

8–11, see Classification

Corvus corax map.jpg
Common raven range

The common raven (Corvus corax), also known as the northern raven, is a large all-black passerine bird. Found across the Northern Hemisphere, it is the most widely distributed of all corvids. There are at least eight subspecies with little variation in appearance, although recent research has demonstrated significant genetic differences among populations from various regions. It is one of the two largest corvids, alongside the thick-billed raven, and is possibly the heaviest passerine bird; at maturity, the common raven averages 63 centimetres (25 inches) in length and 1.2 kilograms (2.6 pounds) in mass. Common ravens can live up to 21 years in the wild,[2] a lifespan surpassed among passerines by only a few Australasian species such as the satin bowerbird[3] and probably the lyrebirds. Young birds may travel in flocks but later mate for life, with each mated pair defending a territory.

Common ravens have coexisted with humans for thousands of years and in some areas have been so numerous that people have regarded them as pests. Part of their success as a species is due to their omnivorous diet; they are extremely versatile and opportunistic in finding sources of nutrition, feeding on carrion, insects, cereal grains, berries, fruit, small animals, and food waste.

Some notable feats of problem-solving provide evidence that the common raven is unusually intelligent.[4] Over the centuries, it has been the subject of mythology, folklore, art, and literature. In many cultures, including the indigenous cultures of Scandinavia, ancient Ireland and Wales, Bhutan, the northwest coast of North America, and Siberia and northeast Asia, the common raven has been revered as a spiritual figure or godlike creature.[5]


The common raven was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus in his 18th century work, Systema Naturae, and it still bears its original name of Corvus corax.[6] It is the type species of the genus Corvus, derived from the Latin word for "raven".[7] The specific epithet, corax/κοραξ, is the Ancient Greek word for "raven" or "crow".[8]

The modern English word raven has cognates in all other Germanic languages, including Old Norse (and subsequently modern Icelandic) hrafn[9] and Old High German (h)raban,[9] all which descend from Proto-Germanic *khrabanas.[10] An old Scottish word corby or corbie, akin to the French corbeau, has been used for both this bird and the carrion crow.[11] Obsolete collective nouns for a group of ravens (or at least the common raven) include "unkindness"[12] and "conspiracy".[13] In practice, most English-speakers use the more generic "flock".


The closest relatives of the common raven are the brown-necked raven (C. ruficollis), the pied crow (C. albus) of Africa, and the Chihuahuan raven (C. cryptoleucus) of the North American southwest.[14] While some authorities have recognized as many as 11 subspecies,[15] others recognize only eight:[16]

Subspecies Image Distribution Notes
C. c. corax Corvus corax ad berlin 090516.jpg From Europe eastwards to Lake Baikal, south to the Caucasus region and northern Iran It has a relatively short, arched bill. The population in southwestern Europe (including the Balearic Islands, Corsica and Sardinia) has an even more arched bill and shorter wings than "typical" nominate, leading some authorities to recognize it as a separate subspecies, C. c. hispanus.[15]
C. c. varius Krummi 1.jpg Iceland and the Faroe Islands It is less glossy than C. c. principalis or nominate corax, is intermediate in size, and the bases of its neck feathers are whitish (not visible at a distance). An extinct white and black color morph found only on the Faroes is known as the pied raven.
C. c. subcorax Corvus corax laurencei.jpg From Greece eastwards to northwestern India, Central Asia and western China, though not the Himalayan region It is larger than the nominate form, but has relatively short throat feathers (hackles). Its plumage is generally all black, though its neck and breast have a brownish tone similar to that of the brown-necked raven; this is more evident when the plumage is worn. The bases of its neck feathers, although somewhat variable in colour, are often almost whitish.

The name C. c. laurencei (also spelt lawrencii or laurencii) is sometimes used instead of C. c. subcorax.[15] It is based on the population from Sindh described by Hume in 1873[17] and is sometimes preferred since the type specimen of subcorax collected by Nikolai Severtzov is possibly a brown-necked raven.[18]

The population restricted to the Sindh district of Pakistan and adjoining regions of northwestern India is sometimes known as the Punjab raven.[19][20]

C. c. tingitanus C.corax tingitanus.JPG North Africa and the Canary Islands It is the smallest subspecies, with the shortest throat hackles and a distinctly oily plumage gloss. Its bill is short but markedly stout, and the culmen is strongly arched. Canary Islands ravens are browner than the North African ravens, leading some authorities to treat them as separate subspecies, with the latter maintaining the name C. c. tingitanus and the former known as C. c. canariensis.[15]
C. c. tibetanus Corvus corax tibetanus.jpg Himalayas It is the largest and glossiest subspecies, with the longest throat hackles. Its bill is large but less imposing than that of C. c. principalis, and the bases of its neck feathers are grey.
C. c. kamtschaticus Corvus corax kamtschaticus, nortern Mongolia.JPG Northeastern Asia Intergrades into the nominate subspecies in the Baikal region. It is intermediate in size between C. c. principalis and C. c. corax and has a distinctly larger and thicker bill than does the nominate race.
C. c. principalis, the northern raven 3782 Common Raven in flight.jpg Northern North America and Greenland It has a large body and the largest bill, its plumage is strongly glossed, and its throat hackles are well developed.
C. c. sinuatus, the western raven Corvus corax clarionensis perched frontal.jpg South-central North America and Central America It is smaller, with a smaller and narrower bill than C. c. principalis. Populations in far southwestern USA and northwestern Mexico (including the Revillagigedo Islands) are the smallest in North America. They are sometimes included in C. c. sinuatus, while other authorities recognize them as a distinct subspecies, C. c. clarionensis, the southwestern raven.[15]

Evolutionary history

The common raven evolved in the Old World and crossed the Bering land bridge into North America.[21] Recent genetic studies, which examined the DNA of common ravens from across the world, have determined that the birds fall into at least two clades: a California clade, found only in the southwestern United States, and a Holarctic clade, found across the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. Birds from both clades look alike, but the groups are genetically distinct and began to diverge about two million years ago.[22][23]

The findings indicate that based on mitochondrial DNA, common ravens from the rest of the United States are more closely related to those in Europe and Asia than to those in the California clade, and that common ravens in the California clade are more closely related to the Chihuahuan raven (C. cryptoleucus) than to those in the Holarctic clade.[22] Ravens in the Holarctic clade are more closely related to the pied crow (C. albus) than they are to the California clade.[24] Thus, the common raven species as traditionally delimited is considered to be paraphyletic.[24]

One explanation for these genetic findings is that common ravens settled in California at least two million years ago and became separated from their relatives in Europe and Asia during an ice age. One million years ago, a group from the California clade evolved into a new species, the Chihuahuan raven. Other members of the Holarctic clade arrived later in a separate migration from Asia, perhaps at the same time as humans.[25]

A 2011 study suggested that there are no restrictions on gene flow between the Californian and Holarctic common raven groups, and that the lineages can remerge, effectively reversing a potential speciation.[26]

A recent study of raven mitochondrial DNA showed that the isolated population from the Canary Islands is distinct from other populations.[27] The study did not include any individuals from the North African population,[27] and its position is therefore unclear, though its morphology is very close to the population of the Canaries (to the extent that the two are often considered part of a single subspecies).[16]

Other Languages
Адыгэбзэ: Вынд
Afrikaans: Raaf
Alemannisch: Kolkrabe
አማርኛ: ስሜናዊ ቁራ
العربية: غراب أسحم
aragonés: Corvus corax
armãneashti: Corbu
অসমীয়া: ৰাভেন পখিলা
asturianu: Corvus corax
Atikamekw: Kakakew
башҡортса: Ҡоҙғон
беларуская: Крумкач
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Крумкач
български: Гарван
བོད་ཡིག: ཕོ་རོག
brezhoneg: Marc'hvran
català: Corb
Чӑвашла: Çăхан
Cebuano: Corvus corax
čeština: Krkavec velký
corsu: Corbu
Cymraeg: Cigfran
dansk: Ravn
davvisámegiella: Gáranas
Deutsch: Kolkrabe
Diné bizaad: Zhį́ʼii
eesti: Ronk
Ελληνικά: Κοράκι
эрзянь: Кренч
español: Corvus corax
Esperanto: Korako
euskara: Erroi
føroyskt: Ravnur
français: Grand Corbeau
Gaeilge: Fiach dubh
Gàidhlig: Fitheach
galego: Corvo grande
ГӀалгӀай: ХьаргӀа
𐌲𐌿𐍄𐌹𐍃𐌺: 𐌷𐍂𐌰𐌱𐌽𐍃
한국어: 큰까마귀
հայերեն: Սև ագռավ
hrvatski: Obični gavran
Ido: Korniko
interlingua: Corvus corax
Iñupiak: Tulugaq
Ирон: Сынт
íslenska: Hrafn
italiano: Corvus corax
עברית: עורב שחור
kalaallisut: Tulugaq
ქართული: ყორანი
kaszëbsczi: Krëk
қазақша: Құзғын
коми: Кырныш
kurdî: Qirgurg
Кыргызча: Карга
Latina: Corvus corax
latviešu: Krauklis
Lëtzebuergesch: Ramm
Limburgs: Raof
Livvinkarjala: Korbivaroi
magyar: Holló
македонски: Гавран
Nederlands: Raaf (vogel)
नेपाली: राजा काग
нохчийн: ХьаргӀа
Nordfriisk: Raawen
norsk: Ravn
norsk nynorsk: Ramn
occitan: Grand còrb
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Quzgʻun
Перем Коми: Кырныш
Piemontèis: Corvus corax
português: Corvus corax
qırımtatarca: Quzğun
română: Corb
rumantsch: Corv grond
русиньскый: Ворон
русский: Ворон
саха тыла: Суор
Scots: Corbie
Simple English: Raven
slovenčina: Krkavec čierny
српски / srpski: Обични гавран
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Obični gavran
suomi: Korppi
svenska: Korp
Tagalog: Corvus corax
татарча/tatarça: Козгын
тоҷикӣ: Зоғ
Türkçe: Bayağı kuzgun
українська: Крук
vepsän kel’: Kroikoi
Tiếng Việt: Quạ thường
Winaray: Corvus corax
吴语: 渡鸦
粵語: 渡鴉
žemaitėška: Kronkėns
中文: 渡鴉