A studio for bird study

Tag: corvus

A Study and Story of the Common Raven- Corvus corax

by Bryce W. Robinson

Common Raven- Corvus corax. 11×14″ colored pencil on bristol.

While working in the desert this past week, I came upon a roost tower for some fifty or so Common Raven. As the sun rose, the ravens set out to find themselves food and mischief. I was to conduct nest checks of a few Verdin nests to verify their activity. This requires the sit and watch approach, so sit and watch I did. While watching, I noticed a large flock of ravens in the sky at a distance to the south. It was a fairly breezy morning, and as the wind rolled across the undulating dry washes of the desert, it created rip curls of wind waves. If you have never noticed a raven play, just watch the next bird you see. The highly intelligent creatures are constantly performing acrobatic aerial maneuvers. They play. The large flock of ravens I noticed were surfing a ridge with apparent prime wind waves. The birds were mainly paired up in twos, dancing and chasing one another. Occasionally a third bird was thrown into the mix. Partners were switched, and games were played as the ravens enjoyed the morning winds. I was taken aback by the sight. A gregarious gathering of an early morning social surfing event where birds undoubtedly played and strengthened family bonds. Intelligence begets incredible behavior.

After the spectacle of the morning surf, I went along my way. While a coworker Jeff and I drove the roads to other nests, we watched for migrants and special birds. We always enjoy the morning birding we are paid to do. As we came upon an active Raven nest on an existing transmission tower, Jeff noticed a bird falling to the ground. I did not see the falling raven, but we rushed to the tower to investigate. We came upon a young raven, not nearly old enough to fledge the nest. It laid on its back rowing its feet. It was obviously severely injured. We checked the bird out and found it bleeding from its mouth, with a puncture wound on its neck. I felt that the bird had most likely broken its neck or back in the fall. It could not control its movements. The sorry young creature was about to exit a life it had only just begun. A tragic and terrible affair, but natural nonetheless.

Jeff had noticed a commotion in the nest before the bird had fallen. He describes what he saw as an adult bird flapping in the nest, what he thought to be the bird attacking the nestling. When we arrived at the nest the adult bird had left as another adult bird came  to chase it away. We do not know if the nestling was attacked by this bird, and was shoved from the nest. Our interpretation is not always fact. Multiple scenarios could have been the cause for the fallen bird, including a confusion and rush for food brought by the parent, resulting in an uncoordinated young bird making a mistake and finding itself one hundred feet below the nest taking its last breaths. Peculiar behavior that I only wish I had witnessed in full. Putting pieces of the puzzle together is more difficult when a few are missing. The day provided two dramatic raven observations, one incredible, one tragic.

I took some time today to illustrate the Common Raven. I love the look of blind contour drawings, and I thought the raven would work well as a subject for this exercise. I like what came of it, as both wire-like illustrations capture the bird in poses typical of raven character.

I also had some fun with a pen drawing of the bird. I love pen, and felt like a quick sketch would be a cool exercise. I want people to realize that although common, and often seen as a nuisance, there is a reason this bird is so successful and numerous. It is a highly intelligent creature, deserving respect from all. I encourage all to take some time and watch these dark birds as they make their way around our world, having fun and enjoying life.


Common Raven- Corvus corax

by Bryce W. Robinson

Often I find myself frustrated with the sight of the Common Raven. Searching for raptors becomes a game of disregarding Ravens from afar to avoid spending needless energy focusing on a bird that is not only common, but prevalent. Birders understand the lack luster feeling of seeing common birds. Although common and at times a nuisance for the birder, the Common Raven is remarkable and deserves respect and admiration as one of the most intelligent creatures of the wild.

Corvids are cunning, to say the least. Particular species have been documented using tools, and it is easy to see their wit when you meet a Corvid in the wild. The way the birds caw and crow makes you wonder whether their communication system is at a level equal to our own. Only a few species of birds have been symbolized and present throughout the cultures of humanities history, and the Raven is among these.

When friends discover my ability to paint and illustrate, I often offer them their choice of bird for a painting. Many times I am asked to paint the Raven. People still hold this creature as a symbol of the intelligence and cunningness of the wild. For those that love the desert landscapes of the southwest, the bird also captures the spirit of the place. I will always love the opportunity to paint Corvus corax, and I am sure that from now until my end, I will create the Raven on canvas time and time again.

Common Raven, Corvus corax. 16x20" oil on canvas.

My first Raven is in portrait style, much like my other birds. I painted it with a dark background in hopes of capturing the personality and depth of one of the avian worlds most intelligent creatures. Mischievous, playful, even mournful are documented behaviors of the Raven. What a wonder we so often overlook. Sincerely watch the Raven, and your mood may soon shift from disregard towards an appreciation for a very common, but truly amazing bird.