Illustrations by Camara Miller.
Call a Canuck a Yank or a Kiwi an Aussie, and you’re sure to get a reaction. Call a Raven a Crow, and he might just tell you to f’CAW.
But, you’d be right. The Raven is a Crow – one of many members of the Corvidae or Crow family, which also includes jays, magpies and other chatty birds.
Habitat, size, tail shape, flight pattern and sound will help you keep your corvids straight so that you can avoid an awkward avian encounter.
Think of the Raven as the big loud brother of the Corvids. Size-wise, he’s the biggest of the songbirds, soaring silently in wild places with his four-foot swing span and wedge-shaped tail. Gleaming purple-black in the sunshine, the Raven is older, wiser, a keen hunter, and is intelligent enough to use tools and hold grudges. “Kronk! Kronk! Gurgle! Pop!” The Raven chats up a storm with his wide range of vocalizations and the ability to imitate sounds.
The poor little Crow lacks the Raven’s wise ways. Fidgety and nervous, the Crow resorts to scavenging for food and begging for scraps. With duller feathers and a straight-edge tail, the Crow flaps his small wings while he flies in a great big flock. “Caw! Caw! Caw!” he says, making a scene with the only sound he has.
It’s no surprise that in European tradition a flock of antsy, hyperactive Crows is seen as an ominous symbol of death, while in Native American culture, the wise old Raven is seen as the keeper of secrets – a vocal messenger from the spirit world and a symbol of change.
Both come bearing news: “Cras, Cras,” which is Latin for “tomorrow.” Humans would be wise to listen.