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Studer, Jacob Henry, 1840-1904. / Birds of North America

Plate LXVII. The raven. (Corvus corax.),   p. 96

Page 96

by i.6o inches. The food of this Duck consists of small fry, cray-
fishes, and the coarse grasses which grow upon the banks of streams
and ponds. It is an expert diver, and when wounded will fre-
quently dive and cling to rocks or weeds on the bottom of the stream
and remain there until life is extinct. According to Audubon, when
these birds travel, their flight is steady, rather laborious, but greatly
protracted. The whistling of their wings is heard at a considerable
distance when they are passing overhead.  At this time they usu-
ally move in a broad front, sometimes in a continuous line. At the
approach of spring the male bird pays his addresses to the female
before they set out on their journey.
The Raven. (Corvuscorax.)
Fig. 1.
But few birds have a more familiar history than the Raven. In-
habiting the earth before the appearance of man, its geographical
range is quite as extensive. Differing in a distinguishable degree
from its European congener, the American Raven is beyond ques-
tion related to it as a variety. Though found in nearly every State
in the Union, they are rarely met with in the Eastern States except
in favored localities. Among the romantic lakes of the Adirondack
region, along the banks of the Hudson, on the shores of New Jer-
sey, and in the wilds of Maine, thev are of frequent occurrence.
They are found in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and in Texas alone,
of the Gulf States. They are common throughout the entire Arctic
regions, following the musk-ox, reindeer, and other animals of the
fur countries, where they endure the intensest cold. Lewis and
Clark observed them at Fort Mandan, when the thermometer stood
at 450 below zero. Though frequently observed north of latitude
69f, they have never been known to breed beyond that line. Along
the Pacific coast, throughout Washington Territory, California,
Arizona, and on the deserts, prairies and mountains of the Western
States, they are numerous. They seem inimicable to the Crow;
where one abounds the other is rarely seen.
The Raven is only partially gregarious. During the day they
are usually seen in pairs. When, however, some favorite carrion
is found, attracted to it by sight and smell, they flock to it in great
numbers. At night, during the winter season, they select some
one roosting-place, usually a clump of tall trees, or, if near the sea-
shore, some inaccessible cliff, and occupy it in immense numbers.
Early in the morning a little before sunrise, they fly in pairs to their
breeding places. By the first of April they are mated, and seek
secluded mountainous spots in which to breed. Dr. Brewer men-
tions a nest in which were ten eggs, found on the xoth of April,
when the snow was quite deep. These nests are constructed of
sticks, coarse twigs, moss, and grass, and are lined with hair, bits
of fur, and fine leaves. They are very bulky and irregular in shape,
and are quite as large as a bushel basket, with a deep cavity in the
center. From six to eight eggs, of a faded green color, marked
with cloudings of a faint purple, or sometimes blotched with a deep
purple brown, about 2. by I.75 inches, are laid, and after about
twenty days' incubation the young are hatched.
The Raven is omnivorous in its diet. MacGillivray gives the
following bill of fare, which will apply to this bird wherever found:
"Young hares, rabbits, rats, moles, mice, the young of poultry,
pheasants, grouse, ducks, geese, eggs of all kinds, echini, mollusca,
fruit, barley, wheat, oats, crustacea, grubs, worms, and fish." But
few birds have so varied a diet.
In sagacity the American Raven is equal to his European peer.
All naturalists and sportsmen accord him unwonted intelligence.
They thoroughly understand the use of fire-arms, and while a per-
son unarmed may get within a few rods of them, they possess the
traditional faculty of smelling gunpowder, and keep a proper dis-
tance from it. Their flesh is extremely rank and unsavory, and
is avoided even by wild animals.
The literature of the Raven is the most extensive of any relating
to birds. Primitive man everywhere endowed him with mysterious
intelligence. He was the first bird sent out by Noah after the
landing on the peaks of Ararat. He was selected by God to feed
the prophet in the wilderness. In the Koran, he taught Cain how
to dispose of murdered Abel, by killing a bird and burying it be-
fore his eyes. In the Scandinavian mythology, two Ravens, Mem-
ory and Thought, sit on each shoulder of Odin, and fly over the
world for the purpose of bringing him intelligence. In the myths
of the Greeks and Romans it plays a like conspicuous part, and
anecdotes of its sagacity are to be met with everywhere.
Common Crow. (Corvus americanus.)
Fig. 2.
This Crow is found in great abundance throughout the Eastern
States, extending west to the Mississippi, and in summer migrating
to the Arctic region. It is not known to occur in California. But
few birds have been so persistently hunted as this. In many States,
bounties have been offered for his destruction; but so wary and wise
is he, that, notwithstanding, he holds his own, if he does not in-
crease in numbers. The Crow breeds from April to June, varying
with the latitude which he selects for the purpose of incubation.
The nest is usually built in the topmost branches of some inacces-
sible pine or hemlock, and is made first of a layer of coarse twigs
and sticks, then a layer of fine bark intermixed with mosses and
bunches of grass, the whole lined with hair, fine fibres of the ever-
greens, and kindred material. The eggs are four in number, of
various shades of green, covered with blotches and spots of differ-
ent browns, and measuring about i.6o by 1.12 inches.
Recently the question-Is the Crow the farmer's friend or enemy?
has been very fully discussed, and is yet not definitely settled. By
his anatomy and physiology the Crow is about as nearly omnivorous
as a bird can well be, and we therefore find him appropriating all
kinds of food, whether animal or vegetable. In various numbers
of the American Naturalist it is asserted that he will attack our
barnyard chickens and carry them off, and that he is a constant
depredator on the young and eggs of our smaller birds. Mr. Sam-
uels, in his Birds of New England, devotes many pages to the dis-
cussion of the Crow's utility, and makes out a fearful debit against
him, numbering nearly five thousand units, while the credit side
shows but two hundred and twenty-nine units. But this author
draws largely upon his imagination, giving each Crow a daily bill
of fare of a dozen smaller birds.
During early spring, the Crow is one of the most beneficial of
birds, his food at that time consisting of carrion and noxious insects.
It destroys in immense numbers the young of grasshoppers, which
are found in pasture lands and meadows as soon as the snow leaves
the ground. It is not until later that they make depredations which
waken the granger's ire. During the month of May the Crow dis-
plays a wonderful fondness for sprouting corn, and then needs con-
stant watching. Dr. Brewer tells us that in the West they are not
known to make any raids upon the cornfields, and are regarded as
benefactors, receiving protection and good treatment; and that in
that region they evince none of that wariness which makes them so
difficult to approach in the East.
The Crow becomes easily domesticated when captured young,
and proves an interesting as well as mischievous pet. It learns to
articulate sounds. Dr. Brewer mentions one that learned to play
hide-and-seek with a family of children, invariably surpassing them
in the game. Many amusing anecdotes are told of him, and his
place in mythological lore is quite as extensive as that of the Raven.

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