Audubon’s Crow

American Crow–from the Audubon Collectio

If you have an interest in birds and art and writing and natural history in general, bookmark John J. Audubon’s Birds of America.

He did not only seek out (and shoot) and paint a vast number of American birds. He also paid careful detail to their habits and habitats.

The site makes for an interesting hour if you are hole-up in a dentist waiting room–like I expect to be next week.

I notice he observes that when you see crows, you won’t see ravens. We have both species co-existing here on Goose Creek, year ’round, and it is helpful to see the two in the air at the same time–the raven much the more heavy-bodied of the two, and more given to soaring than to flapping; their hoarse ROOK! so different from the nasal CAW! of the smaller bird.


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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Thank you, Fred, for reminding me of the differences between crows and ravens. When my sister, Connie, would visit us in wooded, suburban Bethesda, MD, she often remarked, “Your crows are as big as dogs here!” I suspect they were ravens.

  2. I always thought ravens lived at high altitudes. In the Smokies I would only see them when walking trails on the highest mountains.

  3. Becky, my experience is that ravens are not keen to be near people. I think in Europe that is different though.

    Fletch, we have some steep bluffs at the neck of Nameless Creek Gorge, and it is there I think that they roost and next. Buffalo Mt (almost 4k feet) in the county is a major raven rookery; they love to ride the currents between the clefts and not so many people venture to the top–even though it is a short easy hike.

  4. So, you and Audubon have made different observations. Why do you think he said they don’t show up in the same place? I just see crows here in LA, and ravens in the desert, but I also believe I have seen them both in the same place, but don’t recall where. I would guess habitat disruption since Audubon’s time has led to the ranges of each bird changing since then.

  5. We have many crows here in Victoria, in The Pacific North West. People are ambivalent about them–some value their intelligence and sense of humor, while others hate their intrusiveness. They are protected here, so we accept what comes!