Raven ( Corvus corax )

The Raven ( Corvus corax ) is one of eight subspecies of Ravens distributed throughout the world. Also known as western or northern raven, this large black bird is a member of the Corvidae family of birds which also contains crows, jays and magpies. This bird is a rather large and features solid black feathers which offers a dramatic and ominous appearance.

Raven ( Corvus corax ) sitting on a coral fence at the Grand Canyon Western Ranch.
Raven ( Corvus corax ) sitting on a coral fence at the Grand Canyon Western Ranch.

The raven is a large bird, known to average 25 inches in length and 2.6 pounds in weight and heaviest of the passerine or perching birds. This species is renowned for its intelligence and commonly used to test animal problem solving ability. This species has a world wide distribution and can thrive in a large variety of climates. The bird is an opportunistic omnivore finding sources of nutrition, feeding on carrion insects, grains, berries, fruit, small animals, other birds, and food waste. The are common features around campgrounds for the food sources left by human activity.

Range map of the Common Raven
Range map of the Common Raven

The raven has a long history with man in culture, literature and superstition. Many Native American tribes cultures regard the bird as a trickster or a cosmic messenger. Edgar Allen Poe’s infamous poem forever linked this bird with ominous overtones and symbolism for in western culture. The National Football Team even has a football team named for this special mischievous bird.

Field Guide Description

“Large with a long, heavy bill and long wedge-shaped tail. Most common call is a low drawn-out croak. Larger than the Chihuahuan Raven; note thicker, shaggier throat feathers, and that nasal bristles to not extend as far our on the larger bill. Range: Found in a variety of habitats, including mountains, deserts, coastal areas. Numerous in western and northern part of range; uncommon and local, but spreading in Appalachians.”

Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Third Edition, pg 318

Classification

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyCorvidae
Genus Corvus
Speciescorax

References

Stellars Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri )

The Stellars Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri ) is a common character found in the forests of the western half of the United States. The bird is an opportunistic omnivore and closely related to the Blue Jay. The Stellars Jay has a black crested head and a vibrant blue body which is commonly about between eleven and twelve inches long. This bird has a lot of variations depending on location.

Stellars Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri )
Stellars Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri )

The Stellars Jay is commonly, mistakenly, called a “Blue Jay” in the Pacific Northwest. The Stellar, however, is a distinct species from the Blue Jay ( Cyanocitta cristata ). The major differentiating characteristic is the Blue Jay does not have a crest.

Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

This bird commonly feeds upon seeds, nuts and acorns. Speaking from first hand information, they also love unsalted peanuts. The will also eat insects and other small invertebrates, including mammals. They are also known to raid other birds nests and can be very aggressive with other birds.

Stellars Jay breed in monogamous pairs and a clutch of eggs is typically 3 – 5 in number. Both parents are active is feeding the young.

Distribution

The Stellar’s Jay is a common bird located primarily in pine-oak woodlands and coniferous forests. The dark blue and black coloring of the species helps aid in camouflage in the shadows of the forest.

The species is fairly bold and aggressive in its behavior and it is quite common to encounter them around campgrounds and picnic areas.

This animal is found across most of the western states. The bird is known to cross breed with the Blue Jay when their ranges overlap.

The range of this bird is as far north as Alaska and to the south in Nicaragua. The Eastern boundary in the United States for this bird is Colorado and New Mexico.

A Stellar's Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri ) stealing peanuts in Big Bear, California
A Stellar’s Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri ) stealing peanuts in Big Bear, California

Field Guide Description

“Crested; dark blue and black overall. Some races, including nominate from coast to northern Rockies are darker backed; have blueish streaks on forehead. Central and southern Rockies race, C.s. macrolopha, have long crest, paler back, white streaks on forehead, white mark over eye; largest race, carlottae, resident of Queen Charlotte Island off British Columbia, is almost entirely black above. Where ranges overlap in the eastern Rockies, Stellar’s Jay occasionally hybridizes with Blue Jay. Calls include a series of shack or shooka notes and other calls suggestive of Red-tailed Hawks. Range: Common in pine-oak woodlands and coniferous forests. Bold and aggressive; often scavenges at campgrounds and picnic areas. Casual winter visitor of lower elevations of the Great Basin, southern California and southwestern deserts.”

Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Third Edition, pg 312

Classification

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyCorvidae
Genus Cyanocitta
Speciescristata

References

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)

A member of the cuckoo family, the long legged Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is an icon of the desert southwest in part to the artistic efforts of Warner Brothers and their animated series featuring “Wile E Coyote”. Road runners are aptly named and may reach a top speed of 26 mph on the ground. Anyone who attempts to stalk them will note their speed and agility as they effortlessly out distance the stalker.

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)
Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)
Map data are provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE.
Map data are provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy – Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International – CABS, World Wildlife Fund – US, and Environment Canada – WILDSPACE.

The road runner is a larger bird than one might realize and typically is between 20 and 24 inches in length. The bird is typically between 10 and 12 inches in height and boasts a wing span on 17 to 24 inches. The upper body is a shade of brown with black streaks and may feature pink spots. This pattern helps break up the outline of the bird and helps provide camouflage. The lower body is commonly white or ran in appearance. The head features a prominent crest of brown features.

Despite the branding and name, the greater roadrunner is capable of flight, although it spends most of its time on the ground. This animal can be found at most elevations between -200 and 7500 feet and favors semi arid scrubland with scattered low lying vegetation. The bird spends its time hunting and stalking its prey. Once sighted prey is quickly run down by the fast legs of this peditor. Common prey items include spiders, insects, scorpions, mice, small birds and lizards and even rattlesnakes.

The greater roadrunner typically forms long pair bonds with its mate. Typically, clutches of 3 – 6 eggs are laid in the spring months. The nests of this bird are commonly found in low brush and cactus and are built by the male. Common with other cuckoos, the roadrunner are known to lay eggs in the nests of other birds, such as the raven.

Field Guide Description

“A large, ground-dwelling cuckoo streaked with brown and white. Note the long, heavy bill, conspicuous bushy crest and long, white-edged tail. Short, rounded wings show a white crescent on the primaries. Eats insects, lizards, snakes, rodents and small birds. Song is a dovelike cooing, descending in pitch. Range: Common in scrub desert and mesquite groves; less common in chaparral and open woodland.”

Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Third Edition, pg 244

Classification

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderCuculiformes
FamilyCuculidae
Genus Geococcyx
Speciescalifornianus

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