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Common Raven

Corvus corax

Length: 25 inches Wingspan: 50 inches Seasonality: Rare Visitor
ID Keys: Large size, very thick bill, wedge-shaped tail

Common Raven - Corvus coraxCommon Ravens are the largest of the songbirds (perching birds), with a distribution across the northern Hemisphere, including Europe and Asia.  Ravens are considered among the most adaptable and intelligent of birds, traits which allow them to live in environments ranging from tundra to forest to desert.  The resourceful Raven is often seen cooperating with others of its kind to capture prey.  Ravens were probably historically found throughout South Dakota, but unfortunately are now only rare visitors.  The Common Raven is, however, expanding its range into other formerly inhabited areas.

Habitat: Common Ravens will utilize a very wide variety of habitats. They are most often found in forested lands, but are also found in habitats ranging from the dry desert habitats of the southwestern US, to grassland and shrublands of the west, to the open Tundra of far northern North America.   

Diet: Omnivorous.  An incredibly wide array of items are eaten, including insects, worms, rodents, snakes, lizards, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, birds, eggs, small fish, carrion, and garbage.

Behavior: Extremely variable in behavior, with individual birds or pairs of birds exhibiting behaviors suited to local conditions.  They have adapted extremely well to a human presence, and in many locations can be seen foraging in around human dwellings and developments. Common Ravens overall are clever and resourceful, with their intelligence often manifesting itself in what looks like "play", including incredibly acrobatic flights, and teasing each other and other animals.


Currently a non-breeder in South Dakota, although they likely bred here historically.  In breeding range, the nest is built on a cliff face, in a tree, or on man-made objects such as bridges or towers. The nest itself is a large basket built of sticks, lined with grasses, weed stems, bark fibers, and mosses.  Nests may be re-used many years in a row, although it may be different nesting pairs that move in and renovate each year. The female lays between 3 and 7 eggs, and the female does most of the incubation, with the male bringing food to the female during this time.  When the eggs hatch, both parents help to feed the young.  The young leave the nest after about 40 days.


Common Ravens have an incredibly wide array of vocalizations, and even have the ability to mimic other birds. The most commonly heard vocalization is a harsh croaking call with a deeper and more hoarse tone than that of an American Crow.


Generally a permanent resident throughout its range.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click to access an interactive eBird map of Common Raven sightings

Similar Species:

Common Ravens could potentially be confused with the following species in North America:

American Crow - Corvus brachyrhynchos American Crow - Corvus brachyrhynchos Chihuahuan Raven - Corvus cryptoleucus Chihuahuan Raven - Corvus cryptoleucus
American Crow American Crow Chihuahuan Raven Chihuahuan Raven

Conservation Status:

Ravens were exterminated from much of their former range in the Plains, Midwest, and Eastern United States.  They are now expanding in range and numbers, especially in the Northeastern United States and in the Appalachians  They remain a rare visitor to South Dakota, but sightings do seem to be increasing in recent years.  On a global basis, the Common Raven is considered a species of "Least Concern" by the IUCN.

Further Information:

Photo Information:

May 2nd, 2008 - Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Common Raven photos.

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Common Raven - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Rare visitor.  Most sightings have been in and around the Black Hills, but they have been sighted elsewhere in the state as well. Sightings appear to be increasing in recent years.

Additional Common Raven Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Common Raven 1 - Corvus coraxCommon Raven 2 - Corvus coraxCommon Raven 3 - Corvus coraxCommon Raven 4 - Corvus coraxCommon Raven 5 - Corvus coraxCommon Raven 6 - Corvus coraxCommon Raven 7 - Corvus coraxCommon Raven 8 - Corvus coraxCommon Raven 9 - Corvus coraxCommon Raven 10 - Corvus coraxCommon Raven 11 - Corvus corax