NYS Breeding Bird Atlas: Common Raven

After we looking at the precipitous decline of Nightjars, this next species bucks the trend and actually has a rosy outlook.

The Ravenis a bird closely linked to humans.  They are intelligent, powerful and resourceful.  In some cultures the Raven is linked with wisdom and is considered holy.

The Raven is unique among birds because it can live in the most inhospitable places in the world, even in places such as the high arctic with temperatures of -30 F and weeks of darkness, the Raven thrives.

But the Raven, has its dark side, after all it is black.  In Europe Ravens were common following battles, feeding on the mangled corps of those who had died.  Because Ravens live in places that barely anything else lives, some people have associated them with evil and many fantasy writers have continued this trend.

As a result many people followed the words of Edgar Allen Poe “Said the Raven Never More!”  The Ravenwas persecuted, not only in American but in many areas.

When Europeans first arrived in North America, the Raven was common as unbroken deep forests spread from the East Coast nearly to the Mississippi River.  From the shore to the Mountain top was the Ravens domain.

As people pushed in-land, and cleared forests Ravens were slowly pushed further and further away.  As forests were cleared there was less suitable habitat and what habitat there was, needed to be competed with the suddenly booming American Crow.

Thus the Raven became a bird of the remote forest, of tree-less mountains far away from most people.  Here, isolated their populations shrunk and the Raven disappeared from many areas.

In the 1980-1985 New York State Breeding Bird Atlas, you can see this clearly.  Common Raven was still widespread, but local in the remote parts of the Adirondacks, Catskills and a few very isolated places elsewhere.  However most places never saw a Raven and if one happened to be spotted, it was a big deal.

NYS Breeding Bird Atlas Distribution

NYS Breeding Bird Atlas Distribution


Then something remarkable happened and many people have been left wondering how it happened.  Some have theorized that with the return of and subsequent booming Coyote population that the Raven has benefited.  Others have linked the return of Mature forests to much of the state to the sudden boom.  But Ravensare not only doing well… They are doing Great!  For me personally it peaked with a pair of very vocal Ravens flying over downtown Albany!  Something 20 years ago would have been unimaginable.

NYS Breeding Bird Atlas Distribution 2000-2005

NYS Breeding Bird Atlas Distribution 2000-2005


Now Ravens are pretty much absent from low elevations (under 500′) especially along the Lake Ontario Plain, Mohawk and immediate Hudson-Valley’s and certainly in New York City and Long Island, but look at all the growth that has taken place over the last 20 years, especially on the Appalachian Plateau.

When I first started birding my in-laws farm in Coeymans Hollow, Albany County back in 1999, there were no Ravens.  I heard my first Raven in winter there in 2001 and have had an active pair that nest on a hill across the valley from the house since 2005.  The birds often are soaring above the farm or doing display or alerting me to the various hawks and owls present in the area.  They respond very well to my Barred Owl imitations (now if only I can get a Barred Owl to respond!)

Although the Raven is having reverse fortunes compared to many other species, it is not time to let our guard down.  How many other species have we looked at booming and told ourselves “There here for good now” only to see them dwindle to nothing is only a few short years (Evening Grosbeak comes to mind).  While certainly the short-term future of the Raven looks good, further study is encouraged to make sure the future is stable for one of the worlds most noble birds.

Information used in this writing was taken from the New York State Breeding Bird Atlas Web Site.  The information used here-in is subject to change and the maps are property of the New York State Breeding Bird Atlas.


6 responses to “NYS Breeding Bird Atlas: Common Raven

  1. Ahh, my favourite bird, or certainly one close to the top of the list. I happy that they are becoming common elsewhere. They’ve always been around places I’ve lived, and I’m happy others get to enjoy their company, their intelligence and their playfulness.

  2. Interesting! We are the benefactor of the increasing numbers of Ravens. In northeast Saratoga County, according to your maps, they went from none to possible.
    We sighted our first raven in 2007, and we saw them multiple times last winter. One just passed over the house last week as well, with its characteristic call that I think sounds like a mix of a Canada Goose and a crow.

  3. Excellent article. I’ve always thought the term “unkindness of ravens” was itself an unkindness (not to mention a gross injustice). Thankfully, at least once every winter I get to enjoy such a gathering of these magnificent birds in my snowy back woods. The variety of their vocalizations is astonishing and their intelligence is quite evident in that, just as you think you are creeping up on them, they always move just beyond reach. (demonstrating that, even when you think you’re well-hidden under a canopy of hemlocks, they know exactly where you are).

  4. Interesting. What I like about birding is that anyone can do it — it’s not something you have to be born with! The more time you spend at it, the better you get (and the more enjoyable it becomes). Definitely great escapism!

  5. 3/5/10 Saw my first Raven’s this week in Saugerties, NY, the first was along the NYS thruway driving from Kingston to Saugerties and then today as I was getting in my car I heard two crows making nosie and as I looked up they flew driectly overhead and they were chasing a Raven! I have only seen Ravens in the Adirondacks and at the grand canyon in Arizona. Hooray the Ravens are here!

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