The various species of the Corvidae family in Australia, - the Ravens and Crows, can be a challenge to identify in the field. Here in coastal East Gippsland we have three species of Ravens - Australian, Little and Forest - and no Crows.
At a distance and in flight it is near impossible to identify which species of Raven it is in coastal areas of East Gippsland where all three species are found. If the birds are calling this can be a way of identifying the species. The Aussie Raven’s call is a distinctive and classic sound in the Australian bush and outback.
The habit of the Little Raven flicking its wings when perched and calling can be a useful way to ID this species at a distance as both the Australian and Forest Ravens do not wing-flick.
Ravens are intelligent birds and as scavengers they adapt well to urban life where they can become relatively tame. However in rural and bush areas they are usually wary and getting close for photos can be difficult. Away from towns and cities, camping and picnic grounds may be an exception as the birds get used to people in these settings and know food scraps may be on offer.
The following sequence of photos of an Australian Raven were taken at the Willis camp ground on the Snowy River in the Alpine National Park. The photos show the prominent throat hackles well and also the bare patch of skin under the base of the bill and cheek – the other corvid species do not have this bare patch. The Forest and Little Ravens also have throat hackles however they are much smaller.
Please click on photos to enlarge.
|This Aussie Raven was working its way along the Snowy River riparian strip and stopped in a tree above where I was having afternoon tea and my camera was set up.|
|The bird was calling to its other family members, though why it was calling I have no idea.|
|The bird was being dive-bombed by several species of small birds, suggesting to me these birds all had nests nearby.|
|The throat hackles hang down in this photo and look very prominent.|
|The bare skin on the throat at the base of the bill and cheek shows well in this photo.|
To end I
have included a photo of a Forest Raven for comparison – they look very similar,
however the Forest has a deeper bill, smaller hackles and no bare patch of skin
under the base of the bill.
Ravens are not everyone’s favourite bird and they are seen as a scourge by many farmers, especially sheep farmers, as Ravens can inflict a lot of damage on weakened and downed lambs or sheep. That said, they do play an important ecosystem role in helping to clean up carrion and they also consume a lot of insects. For me the Aussie Raven’s mournful call is deeply evocative of the Australian outback.