Living Bird Magazine
Chihuahuan RavenCorvus cryptoleucus
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Corvidae
An all-black bird of hot, dry open country, the Chihuahuan Raven is partway between an American Crow and a Common Raven in size. It’s better than either of those two species at surviving in grasslands and deserts of the southwest U.S. and northern Mexico. Like other corvids (members of the crow family), Chihuahuan Ravens are intelligent and social, often traveling and roosting in flocks. Once known as the “White-necked Raven,” this species does have white-based neck feathers, but this feature is very rarely seen in the field.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Chihuahuan Ravens are fairly common in their desert habitat, but thinly distributed. Look for them around cliffs, near ranch operations, and at landfills. In dry open country, make a point to scan tall perches such as utility poles to find a perched bird or a nest.
- Cuervo Llanero (Spanish)
- Corbeau à cou blanc (French)
- Cool Facts
- Some Chihuahuan Ravens breed in shortgrass prairie, a treeless habitat. They nest on utility poles, windmills, and other manmade objects that resemble the trees and cliffs they use elsewhere in their range. Scientists believe that the ravens did not occupy this habitat until Europeans settled the plains and began building structures that would support a nest.
- In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Chihuahuan Ravens were more widespread in Colorado and most adjacent states than they are now. Scientists speculate that the slaughter of the plains bison provided ample food for ravens, permitting a temporary range expansion for this intelligent bird.
- Unlike most crows and ravens, the Chihuahuan Raven frequently reuses its nest in subsequent years. Some pairs may maintain two nests and use them in alternate years.
- The bases of the neck and body feathers of a Chihuahuan Raven are white, not gray like those of other American crows and ravens. The white is difficult to see in the field and is only revealed by wind blowing the feathers, or when a bird fluffs its feathers to display at another raven. Although this coloration is unique in North America, a number of other crows and ravens around the world have white bases to their feathers.
- The oldest recorded Chihuahuan Raven was at least 21 years, 9 months old when it was caught and released in Arizona in 2001. It had been banded in the same state in 1980.