Archive for the 'Ravens and Crows' Category

Slow crows

Australian Raven

On our recent trip to Sydney and back I commented several times on the casual nature of the crows along the road. So many times we saw them eating road-kill, either on the road itself, or very close to the edge of the paved area. As we approached – generally driving at 100-110kph – the birds would casually wander off the carriageway and just a few steps out of harm’s way. Rarely did they fly off. Occasionally they might give a hop or two to avoid being hit; this usually meant they had left their escape just a second or two too long. Then after our vehicle had passed, they quickly resumed their feast.

I presume that they had learned over their lifetime that vehicles caused them no harm provided they moved out of the way in time. Being quite intelligent animals they probably learned this survival technique from others. It just looked quite comical to me to see them so casually wandering out of danger.

I should actually correct myself here: most of the birds we saw were actually Australian Ravens, not crows at all. This is the largest corvid found in Australia. Crows are found further north than where we were travelling. Nearer to home we often see the same behaviour exhibited by the local species, the Little Raven. This behaviour is quite common on the South Eastern Freeway from Adelaide to my home town of Murray Bridge.

Little Raven

Unidentified bird in Meknes, Morocco

Unidentified bird in Meknes, Morocco

One of the frustrating things about touring another country, one quite foreign to one’s home base, is not being able to quickly identify the birds you see. I get that even here in Australia, especially when I visit family in Sydney, two day’s drive from home. At home it is a different matter as I can generally ID a species merely by call. It’s even fun sleeping in, making a list of species in the dawn chorus.

On our two week tour of Morocco I was primarily a tourist, taking in all the sights, sounds, smells and cultural differences. Birding was low on my priorities, and photos – like those shown today – were taken on the run and often at extreme zoom.

I have really puzzled over the bird shown in today’s photos, which I took in Meknes. The best I can say is that I think it might be a Western Jackdaw. The general appearance seems to fit this species, as does the habitat – a large square with many people with several dozen of these birds present.

If any of my readers can throw a more positive light on it, please let me know. UPDATE: one of my readers has confirmed that the bird is indeed a Western Jackdaw. Thank you.

Unidentified bird in Meknes, Morocco

Magnificent Wedge-tailed Eagles

Wedge-tailed Eagle

Last week I travelled from home in Murray Bridge to attend a meeting in Adelaide. I take the South-eastern Freeway and this takes me through the Adelaide Hills. I generally take quite an interest in the birds seen along the way, noting that more and more frequently I am seeing the wonderful Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos flying overhead.

On this occasion, however, I saw two – perhaps a pair – of  Wedge-tailed Eagles soaring low over the freeway. This magnificent species – Australia’s largest eagle – is widespread throughout the country without being very common anywhere.

As is quite usual both birds were being harassed by other species, including Australian Magpies and Little Ravens. While they might be lovely birds, they are generally not loved birds; at least, not  in the bird kingdom.

Fantailed Raven, Ethiopia

Fan-tailed Raven, Ethiopia

On my visit to Ethiopia late last year I saw many crows and ravens, especially the very common Pied Crow. The species I feature today, the Fan-tailed Raven, I saw only on one occasion. We had driven north about 100km from Addis Ababa to Portuguese Bridge. I managed to get a few good photos and added several species to my list.

The Fan-tailed Raven certainly has a very descriptive name, and to see them soaring on thermals overhead the fanned out tail helps considerably in the identification process. You can see this in the photo below.

This species is widespread throughout north eastern Africa and in parts of the Sahara. It feeds on insects and other invertebrates, food scraps, fruit, carrion and even grain.

Further reading:

Fan-tailed Raven, Ethiopia

Fan-tailed Raven, Ethiopia

Thick-billed Ravens, Addis Ababa

Thick-billed Ravens, Addis Ababa

One of the bird species I recorded on only a few occasions during my two week stay in Ethiopia last December was the Thick-billed Raven. Only once did I manage to get a few photos of this species, shown here today on this post. They were very easily distinguished from the locally common Pied Crows by being almost completely black except for a white patch on the nape. They are considerably bigger than the Pied Crow too. Their thick bill is hard to miss and is diagnostic.

Along with the Common Raven, they are the largest in the corvid family of birds (click here for a definition). They are found only in the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia). Their diet is quite varied, and being omnivorous they will eat insects, beetles, carrion, meat scraps and a range of human foods.

Thick-billed Ravens, Addis Ababa