The Crows have returned to Crane Lake. They leave the area during the dead of winter, but usually return around the end of February. Crows don’t go too far south, some maybe only as far as Virginia, MN which is only 75 miles south of Crane Lake. For us their return is a harbinger of spring. They are our first bird that returns to their summer range.
Common Raven photo by Dee Kuder
Now, Ravens remain in the Crane Lake area year round. If you see a large black bird in the winter you can assume that it is a Raven. The number of Ravens do increase during the winter as some Ravens move south from Canada to Minnesota.
But, during the other times of the year, it can be a challenge to tell the difference between these two species of Corvidae. The best way to differentiate between the two is by their voice. American Crows caw, while Common Ravens croak. Ravens have a variety of calls and croaks and the sounds are generally lower in pitch than a Crow’s. Crows can caw very loudly and sometimes it is an irritable sound, especially in the early morning hours!
Visually Crows will have a squared off tail, whereas the Raven has a diamond shaped tail. Ravens will have a longer neck and tail than a Crow. As far as size goes, generally Ravens are much larger than a Crow. But that can be hard to determine if you have nothing to compare it with. And also the two species’ sizes can vary. Most of the Ravens that come from up north are considerably bigger than a Crow would ever be. But there are smaller Ravens that can almost be the same size as a large Crow!
Ravens soar and can look like an Eagle, while Crows flap their wings constantly, rarely soaring. Now this can be confusing because it stands to reason that Ravens must flap their wings to fly as well – so it’s not a conclusive result.
Young Ravens will travel in flocks until they find a mate. Ravens mate for life and defend their home territory. A collective noun for a group of Ravens is an “unkindness” or a “conspiracy”. They may also associate with the Gray Wolf, as a kleptoparasite, following Wolves to scavenge carcasses.
Sometimes in the fall after a successful deer hunting season, people will hang a deer carcass in a tree for the birds. These carcasses can bring in all sorts of critters, from Pine Martens and Bobcats to Barred Owls. Ravens for one love this. Last fall I didn’t have a deer to hang, so after Thanksgiving, I hung a turkey carcass in the trees. That brought in a huge Raven! It was so much fun to see him up close!