Australian Bush Birds
Australian Raven  -  Corvus coronoides
Australian Raven
Australian Raven showing the white eye, powerful beak, plumage gleaming black in the sun and the hackles on the throat.
Australian Raven Australian Raven
Left. Australian Raven in shadow; the plumage is less glossy and appears not as deeply black. Photographed at Ricketts Point, Port Phillip. Right. Head view emphasising the throat hackles forming a 'beard' when the bird calls.
map map The Australian Raven - Corvus coronoides - is the largest of the crows and ravens in Australia. It has a large black bill, white eye with blue inner ring, glossy black feathers overall. Feet are dusky black. Distinguished by prominent throat feathers (called hackles) which are long and floppy and form a 'beard' when the bird thrusts its head forward while calling. A narrow area of bare black skin runs either side of the chin from below the bill. Size; about 52 centimetres.

Juveniles and young adults have pink skin beside the chin and blue-grey eyes turning brown; they also have breast and belly is sooty black, under down is paler greyish. Females are similar to males.

Found throughout Victoria and New South Wales and Queensland south of the York Peninsula, south-east Northern Territory, South Australia, except the north-west. Another population in south-west Western Australia is progressively smaller moving westward from the Eyre Peninsula and is either a different subspecies (perplexus) or local variation of the single species.

Australian Raven - page 2
Pied Currawong The large bill distinguishes the Australian Raven from crows and other ravens.
Ravens and crows are similar; call and behaviour is often the key to distinguishing species. The Australian Raven's call is a strong, far-carrying wail, descending and fading to a deep, muffled groan; also a series of slow notes 'aaaa .....aaaa......aaaa'. Ravens have dusky grey to grey-brown under down beneath their feathers while crows have white down which may be visible if wind ruffles feathers.

Has a shallow, fluttering 'returning to territory' flight; otherwise flies with a slow downstroke and quick upwards flick; glides with wings flat, tips widely fingered.

Lives in open country, natural and cleared, and in many other habitats except closed forest. Common.

Australian Ravens eat mainly insects, including pests such as grasshoppers and army worms, during warmer months. At other times they eat carrion; their powerful beaks can penetrate the carcasses of animals up to the size of a small sheep and they frequently clean up carcasses. Ravens have a reputation for killing young lambs but most lambs being eaten by Australian Ravens were dead or dying when the Ravens arrived.

Australian Ravens do not breed until they are at least three years old. Until then they forage in flocks of 30 or more. They pair for life and occupy a territory of about 100 hectares all year round. Each morning, after sunrise, pairs affirm the boundaries of their territory by patrolling and calling with the wailing call with drawn-out ending. When calling on a perch the bird stands horizontal with the head stretched forward and the throat hackles flared.

Australian Raven
Australian Raven beside the Barkley Highway in Queensland being attacked by a Willie Wagtail. The Wagtail was diving at the raven in flight and continued annoying the bigger bird after it landed. The reason for this hostility is not known.
Australian Raven - page 3
This species breeds in spring, beginning in July, regardless of latitude. Both birds build the nest, usually taking two-three weeks; the nest is a large stick basket lines with bark and wool felted together in a thick mat, usually more than 10 metres above the ground in a tree-fork providing good all-round views.

The female incubates four or five green, heavily blotched and spotted with dark olive-brown eggs, the male feeds her on the nest. Eggs are about 45 by 30 mm. Incubation takes 20 days.

The young fledge in about 43 days. After leaving the nest young birds remain in their parent's territory for three to four months. Initially they are fed by the parents but become increasingly independent. In summer these young birds join passing nomadic flocks feeding on grasshoppers and spilt grain and leave their parents. Sixty-two per cent of Australian Ravens die before reaching one year old.

Annual mortality among Australian Ravens overall is about 23 per cent in more closely settled areas, such as near Canberra, but as low as 15 per cent on large pastoral properties further inland.