Little Raven

Corvus mellori

Little Raven. Credit: John Fennel

The Little Raven is one of five species of the genus Corvus found in South Australia and the Little Raven is the corvid most commonly found in the Adelaide area.

All ravens and crows are referred to as called ‘corvids’ as they all belong to the genus ‘Corvus’. The others species in South Australia are Little Crow, Australian Raven, Torresian Crow and Forest Raven.

The calls of corvids are perhaps the best method for identifying them in the field. They all have different calls, although recognising them obviously requires a great deal of experience.

 

The brown eye on this bird tells us that it is an immature Little Raven. Photo: John Spiers

The call Little Ravens has a guttural “kar-kar-kar-kar” or “ark- ark-ark-ark”.

Little Ravens, like other corvids, are omnivorous but are strongly insectivorous. They also take carrion (such as road killed animals) and refuse.

Breeding is mainly during late winter to spring (July to mid-November). The species is migratory and only defends a small area around the nest while breeding. For most of the year it travels, feeds and roosts in small flocks of up to 30 birds (sometimes 200 – 300 birds).

Description

The species of crows and ravens in Australia are notoriously difficult to distinguish in the field, even for experienced birders. Although they vary in size, it is rare to have two species next to each other and to be able to compare. The bases of feather in ravens are snowy white, whereas crows are dirty grey. The feathers of the throat in ravens are long, forming a kind of ‘beard’ used in display, and the throat hackles of the Little Raven have two points. The area under the beak is also well feathered in the Little Raven but largely bare and pink in the Australian Raven. An idea of the age of younger birds may be obtained from their eye colours. Nestlings have bluish eyes; first year immatures have brown eyes, which develop whitish spots in the second and third years. Finally, the eyes turn white when the birds mature into adults.

Where to find it

Look for them in the southern half of South Australia. They like open areas and lightly timbered woodlands, and do well in human altered environments such as sheep paddocks, parks and roadsides.