National Geographic : 1933 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE NORTHERN RAVEN (Corvus corax prin cipalis) The raven looks like a large crow. Although it appears to be about twice the size of its smaller relative, as a matter of fact it is not. The com mon crow is from 17 to 21 inches long from bill tip to tail tip. Ravens vary from twenty-one and a half to twenty-six and a half inches. The raven is always heavier, the head and beak are stouter, the feathers on the throat are pointed and not rounded, and the cry is a deep-voiced croak that is unmistakably different from any note which a crow can produce. It is a bird of the mountains, of rocky cliffs by the sea, of barren mesas, of semiarid deserts, and of the great uncut forest lands. It has retreated before the advance of man, be ing still an inhabitant of the wilderness. Its food is the offal or carcasses of animals, fish, and crabs gathered by the sea, insects, eggs, and help less young birds of any species. As it comes very little in contact with man, its economic interest is not important. Like many species of birds, the raven feeds its young for a time by regurgitation. Its devotion to its offspring is very great, and it is said to attack the eagle, if necessary, to protect them. The parents stay with the young, feeding them, guard ing them, and teaching them the ways of the raven world throughout the summer, long after they have left the nest. The northern raven is found from the Arctic Ocean southward to the northern tier of States and in the Alleghenies to Georgia. AMERICAN RAVEN (C. c. sinuatus). This is a subspecies occurring from British Co lumbia, Montana, and North Dakota southward to Nicaragua. WHITE-NECKED RAVEN (C. crypto leucus). The white on the neck of this bird is seen only if the neck feathers are raised, since it is found only at the base of the feathers. The bird's habitat is the desert region of western United States and Mexico, from Arizona, New Mexico, and central Texas southward. Of a size midway between the common crow and the northern raven, it is often seen perched on tele phone poles in towns. EASTERN CROW (Corvus brachyrhyn chos brachyrhynchos) This is the common crow of much of eastern North America. The northern boundary of its breeding range is along a line extending from Newfoundland and through Quebec to Manitoba. From here it spreads in a southward and south eastward direction through the States to Mary land, the northern part of the Gulf States, and northern Texas. It winters generally in the United States. The common crow is one of the best-known birds in this country and in many regions it is extremely abundant. In the autumn, in some sections, crows congre gate in large numbers to roost in a favorite grove, and here come together nightly for many weeks. In the morning they spread out over a great area of country in search of food. Long before sun down they begin to return from all directions, continuing to arrive singly or in small groups until dark. Many thousands thus assemble in a single roost. They are very cunning and know to a nicety the range of a gun. In the woods and fields it is only by accident, or by the exercise of careful strategy, that a man may approach this bird close enough to kill it. A story has long been current that a crow will talk only if its tongue is split. This cruel prac tice is neither necessary nor desirable. Crows make their nests in trees, usually in March, April, or May. Four to six eggs are laid. They are greenish blue, thickly covered with markings of various shades of brown. This is one of the species which has been di vided by ornithologists into various geographical races. There is extremely little difference in their appearance, and their general feeding, nest ing, and roosting habits show only such varia tions necessarily due to natural surroundings. In addition to the widely distributed eastern crow, this group includes four other forms, as follows: SOUTHERN CROW (C. b. paulus). Its territory is from the lower Potomac and Ohio valleys south to southern Georgia and eastern Texas. FLORIDA CROW (C. b. pascuus). This variety breeds throughout most of the peninsula of Florida. WESTERN CROW (C. b. hesperis). This western subspecies occurs from British Co lumbia and Saskatchewan to New Mexico and northern Baja California. NORTHWESTERN CROW (C. b. cau rinus). The range of the northwestern crow is limited to a narrow strip of country from Kodiak Island and Kukak Bay, Alaska, to Puget Sound, Washington. FISH CROW (Corvus ossifragus) While skirting a salt marsh on the Virginia coast one June day, I sought the shade of one of the scattered pines dotting the landscape. When on the point of sitting down, I noticed an egg shell on the carpet of pine needles. Near by was another, and still another-in fact, I soon found the remains of at least two dozen eggs of the clapper rail, which inhabited the neighboring marsh in large numbers. The eggs must have been carried to a certain large limb, where they had been eaten and the shells dropped to the ground. While I rested, one of the marauders of the marsh appeared. He was a fish crow and he carried an egg in his beak. Fish crows eat principally crabs, fish, and such other animal food as they can find along the coast and neighboring rivers and lakes. They range from Massachusetts southward to Florida, and thence along the Gulf coast to eastern Texas. One may find them inland, especially at various places in the Southern States. The bird is smaller than the common crow and measures about six teen inches in length. Its usual cry is a nasal, reedy caw, which resembles the note of the young of the larger species. The best way for the student to distinguish this bird in the field is by its note.