Saturday, February 16, 2013

Going out on a limb

I have a tendancy to oversensationalize when I'm identifying critters. If I find a mink track, I want it to be a river otter so bad. If I get a blurry, grainy IR fox image...I really want it to be a gray not a red.

In this case, my gut reaction to this camera-trapped image below was that I caught the Common Raven (Corvus corax) perching on a log. Which would be a new species for me.

Then I talked myself out of it, and said "No, couldn't possibly's just a [American] Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)".

I even blogged about it over at my Albany Times Union 'Discovering wildlife' blog...and called it a Crow.

But now looking at it, I'm not so sure.

Here's why I think it's a Raven:

-Size. That looks like a big bird. Granted it's fairly close to the camera, but upon reviewing pictures taken at this site of DEFINITE Crows, I feel like this is a bigger bird than those.

-Bill. Raven's are known for having a much heavier bill than the Crows. Also, there are some feathers on the dorsal (top) bill that extend down the culmen. Am I using that word correctly? The Crows don't seem to have this, as I look at drawings in my Sibley's and Nat Geo books.

I unfortunately don't have any GOOD Crow pictures taken from this same angle. Or at least that I saved. Crows are a dime a dozen, so I tend to delete those pictures, unless something is really cool. I do have this picture though that's at almost the same angle, but on a different brand of camera.

This seems to be a Crow. Although it's further away from the camera, it seems to definitely be of a slighter build. Also, it's bill seems a bit more slender and not as thick.

One feature of the Raven that is pointed out in both Sibley's and Nat Geo, is that the Raven has some shaggy /throat breast feathers. Unfortunately in neither of these pictures can you see those feathers. So, I can't use that as identification.

Alright, Bloggers. I fully expect to be supported or called out on my sensationalism. If I'm wrong, and this is just a plain old Crow....I'm ok with that. But if that's a Raven, then I have another bird to add to my camera-trapped list!



  1. Looks too big to be a crow...I always get them mixed up too...

  2. May you be happy with the identification, please let it be a raven. Lovely photos. Cheers from Jean

  3. Alyssa: It's difficult to tell from the photo, but the wing tips on this bird don't appear to extend all the way to the end of the tail. They seem about an inch shorter. I think a Common Raven would show longer wings (about as long as the tail). The head/bill also doesn't look bulky enough to me. Either way, a cool shot!

    1. Josh- thanks for stopping by. I checked out your website and its very cool. Looking forward to checking in again. And you know, I was thinking about the wing length, I don't know why I didn't include that in my list of ID features. Perhaps it's a mystery I'll not be able to solve. Oh well!

  4. Man....this is a tough one. I can never tell these two apart....

  5. It looks like a crow to me. The bill is large for a crow, but not as heavy as you would expect in a raven. The tail doesn't look like a raven's distinctive "wedge" and, as noted, the neck/throat aren't "shaggy" (I think it would show in these shots).

  6. I think it's a crow, too. Ravens tend to have "shaggier" necks and are longer in the body and tails.

  7. I'm not sure either way, but I glanced at the photos before reading and immediately thought raven. Weird:). Either way, those are some nice photos!


  8. I too would vote for crow. But I wanted to comment on your admission of "oversensationalizing" your photos when you first look through them. Although cooler heads must prevail in the end and proper identifications should be made, there is no crime in wishing and hoping as you scan the images. It is like Christmas morning when I was a kid. ANYTHING was possible as I tore off the wrapping paper ... that is, until I was old enough to recognize the size and shape of a box that held a shirt or some other article of clothing. That wil happen in camera trapping too... :)

  9. Well, thanks for the input everybody! You all crushed my dreams of catching a Raven in my backyard! Just kidding. And John, you're right. It totally does feel like Christmas morning. Sometimes it's that awesome bike/video game/new barbie kind of morning...and others (like in this posting) it's the socks and underware kind of morning.

  10. I am by far no bird expert and could not tell the difference between the two but great cam pics none the less.


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