Chihuahuan Raven

Black bird perched on branch
Large, glossy, black Chihuahuan ravens are a common sight in the deserts of the southwestern United States.

R. Wiles Photo

 
Here at White Sands, you may see a bird that is often mistaken for the crow. Meet the Chihuahuan raven. Although both birds are black and similar in size, Chihuahuan ravens are built more like common ravens, with a stout, heavy bill and a wedge-shaped tail. You can tell the two ravens apart by size though. Chihuahuan ravens are the smaller of the two, about 20 inches (51 cm) long and weighing 1.2 pounds (0.5 kg). Chihuahuan ravens also have distinctive white feathers on their necks, though these are only seen when the wind ruffles the bird's feathers or the bird fluffs itself. Other than these few white feathers, the birds are completely black from beak to feet. However, the best way to tell the three species apart, which all occur around the monument, is by their voices. The American crow has a strong, harsh caw. The common raven has a deep throaty croak, and our special Chihuahuan raven has a deep kraaa-sound , or pruk-pruk calls.

Large, glossy, black Chihuahuan ravens are a common sight in the deserts of the southwestern United States. These birds prefer arid deserts and dry, open scrubland, so they're right at home in the Southwest and in parts of Mexico. At White Sands, you can sometimes spot them soaring above, playing in the wind, or perching on bushes and utility poles.

Another place you may see Chihuahuan ravens is picking at carrion along the side of the road. These omnivores eat just about anything they find or catch, including seeds, leaves, carrion, seeds, road kill, insects, fruit, bird eggs, young birds, lizards, and small mammals. Like many predatory birds, the Chihuahuan raven will scan the ground while soaring or perched to find food. It also may feed in flocks. Once it finds or catches food, the raven then uses its feet to hold the item as it pecks the food apart with its heavy bill.

When not soaring overhead or scavenging for food, Chihuahuan ravens spend time in their nests. The female bird builds the cup-shaped nest mostly from sticks and often lines it with softer materials like fur, paper, or yucca fibers. Nesting locations are usually in low trees, but they have also been seen on buildings and utility poles. These nests are often reused year after year. Here, the female will lay 5-7 pale green streaked eggs. These eggs are incubated by both parents until the babies hatch about three weeks later. Young Chihuahuan ravens then fledge after 28-30 days.

Last updated: August 29, 2016

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Holloman AFB, NM 88330

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