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UK - West Sussex - Raven or crow (1 Viewer)

ahoare

Active member
I live in West Sussex on a hill about 8 miles north of the South Downs. There is a pair (I think) of large black birds which seem to me to be crow size but their call is like a raven's. I can tell the difference and the tail seems to be a bit rounded rather than squared off but my sightings are not precise. It's just the size which seems to be too small as they don't seem to have the presence of a raven. Could/would a crow imitate a raven?

I've lived around here all my life and never thought ravens were resident yet I have witnessed the spread of buzzards and now red kites so maybe a raven too.

I would value any comments.
 

AdrianB70

Well-known member
I can't say for sure one way or another based on your description. I haven't heard of any crows imitating ravens, but I don't see why it wouldn't happen. That said, I'd expect you to hear both crow calls and raven calls if this were what's happening.

Size is often not a useful field mark for ID because it is easy to get the wrong impression of size. Especially if you are not seeing these birds up close, that could be a problem.

As for the tail, be careful with that field mark because it can change depending on how much the bird opens its tail. Raven tails are usually described as being wedge-shaped, which goes beyond just a normal rounded tail. The outer tail feathers are considerably shorter than the central ones. This is a very useful field mark if seen well and if the spread of the tail is taken into account. The more subtly rounded tail of a Carrion Crow could also look wedge-shaped if spread wide (see this photo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrion_crow#/media/File:Carrion_crow_in_flight.jpg ).

Voice is probably your best bet for identifying these guys. If you're not positive about what you're hearing, review some vocalizations of both species on xeno-canto online to become more familiar with them.

Ravens could very well be expanding in your area. I live in New York City, where Common Ravens were never known to occur as far as I know. They were in fact extirpated from the whole of New York State at one point due to persecution, but they have since expanded remarkably, and they now nest (I believe) in all 5 boroughs of New York City (not to mention throughout most of New York State).
 

AdrianB70

Well-known member
On second thought, could that crow spread tail picture be a misidentified raven? The wedge shape looks too strong, the wings look long, and the primaries look nice and long and finger-like...
 

Sangahyando

Well-known member
I live in West Sussex on a hill about 8 miles north of the South Downs. There is a pair (I think) of large black birds which seem to me to be crow size but their call is like a raven's. I can tell the difference and the tail seems to be a bit rounded rather than squared off but my sightings are not precise. It's just the size which seems to be too small as they don't seem to have the presence of a raven. Could/would a crow imitate a raven?

I've lived around here all my life and never thought ravens were resident yet I have witnessed the spread of buzzards and now red kites so maybe a raven too.

I would value any comments.
I can't recall any instances of crows imitating ravens. In my experience, ravens can appear smaller than they are under some circumstances.
Are your birds shy? Ravens have a longer flight distance than crows and tend to avoid cities. Otherwise, I wouldn't be surprised to see them in the countryside. They're certainly common in my area (by raven standards, of course. Still less common than crows), which has a landscape similar to southern England.
 

StephenHampshire

Well-known member
United Kingdom
I live in West Sussex on a hill about 8 miles north of the South Downs. There is a pair (I think) of large black birds which seem to me to be crow size but their call is like a raven's. I can tell the difference and the tail seems to be a bit rounded rather than squared off but my sightings are not precise. It's just the size which seems to be too small as they don't seem to have the presence of a raven. Could/would a crow imitate a raven?

I've lived around here all my life and never thought ravens were resident yet I have witnessed the spread of buzzards and now red kites so maybe a raven too.

I would value any comments.

Judging by a quick internet search, ravens have definitely been seen in West Sussex over the past 4 or 5 years....so not an impossibility.
 

david kelly

Drive-by Birder
I can't recall any instances of crows imitating ravens. In my experience, ravens can appear smaller than they are under some circumstances.
Are your birds shy? Ravens have a longer flight distance than crows and tend to avoid cities. Otherwise, I wouldn't be surprised to see them in the countryside. They're certainly common in my area (by raven standards, of course. Still less common than crows), which has a landscape similar to southern England.

There are wild ravens in the centre of Edinburgh, not the biggest of cities (450,000 residents or so), but a city nonetheless.

David
 

birdboybowley

Well-known member.....apparently so ;)
Supporter
England
Ravens have been breeding residents in West Sussex for well over a decade at least now....I've had double figure day counts along the Downs in various places.
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
In flight, longer wings of Raven distinct, with an angle in the middle, unlike crow wings which are much more basic wing shape. Throat feathers and bill giving head appearance also distinct at reasonable ranges.
 

Hauksen

Forum member
Hi Sangahyando,

I've never seen that in continental Eurasia, though.

A pair of ravens has bred in urban Pinneberg for a couple of years now. For ornitho.de users, here's a link to a record including a photograph of the nest: https://www.ornitho.de/index.php?m_id=54&id=31608556

Admittedly, Pinneberg has a fair-sized wooded area between railway station and hospital. Can't compete with Holyrood Park obviously, but it's actually a remnant of the local castle's park. I suppose that's where the ravens breed.

Regards,

Henning
 

ahoare

Active member
Thank you everyone. I think I'll take it that they are ravens going by the voice which I have mostly heard when they are flying although one called from the top of a tall pine tree before flying off. This morning there were a pair of ravens or crows and a buzzard worming in the paddock opposite our house. There's very little prey, e.g. rabbits (too many damned foxes) and voles and the buzzard has also taken to catching wood pigeons having (I think) polished off all the frogs and newts in our local pond. They are getting to be a nuisance.
 

rylirk

Well-known member
United Kingdom
Whereabouts North of the Downs are you? I am based in West Sussex and bird the county regularly; ravens are fairly common in the area between Arundel and Pulborough these days!
 

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