Common raven, Corvus corax.

Common Raven, Corvus corax

The common raven is the well-known trickster of many native myths and legends, particularly in the regions of northwest Canada and Alaska. It is recognized by its resonant, croaking call as it soars over wilderness areas of Canada, occasionally performing aerial acrobatics, apparently in play. At 55–68 cm in length, this all-black bird is larger than a crow and has a heavier bill. In fact, it is the world's largest black bird. In flight, the common raven's diamond-shaped tail, which widens in the middle and then tapers slightly towards its tip, distinguishes it from the crow, whose tail is fan-shaped with no taper. The raven is found throughout most of the northern hemisphere, from the Arctic islands to northern Africa. It is one of the few birds capable of surviving year-round in the Arctic.

The common raven is an adaptable, omnivorous feeder; in southern areas it eats almost anything, including carrion, eggs, insects, amphibians, small mammals, grains and fruits. In the Arctic, lemmings are its preferred prey, although in winter it supplements its diet by scavenging from carcasses killed by bears and wolves. When more food is available than they can eat at the time, ravens cache, or hide, their food and retrieve it later. It is thought to mate for life, forming pairs through elaborate courtship displays that involve crouching and shaking the wings and tail. A pair may return to the same nest year after year, adding to it each spring. Nests are built of sticks, and other available materials, on cliff ledges inaccessible to predators. Three to six blue- or green-spotted eggs are laid and incubated for 18–19 days. Although male ravens do not help to incubate the eggs, they do assist in rearing the young. After juvenile birds leave the nest, they sometimes form wandering flocks, which search for food together.