The Common Raven (Corvus corax), lord of carcasses, is one of our most handsome birds with its pitch black suit of feathers. The bird belongs to the familia of crows (Corvidae), and within this familia into the genus of crows (Corvus). It is the largest member of the order Passeriformes in Finland, weighing well over a kilo, with a wing span of well over a meter as well. There are a total of 39 species in the Corvus -genus, of which four others have been met in our country: The Jackdaw, the Daurian Jackdaw, the Hooded Crow and the Rook. There are nine raven-like species amongst the 39 named after the raven, but those haven’t been met in Finland.
The Common Raven nests in the northern hemisphere, north of the 20th circle of latitude, excluding the innermost parts of Greenland and the northern coast of Siberia. In addition to these harsh areas, the bird also doesn’t nest in densely inhabited areas such as middle Europe and the population centers of the New World.
In Finland, the bird nests across the entire country in scarce numbers, being the most numerous in the reindeer-herding zone of Lapland. It’s not a common bird anywhere, though – even if during the last few years, it has been sighted more and more often. The total amount of nesting couples in Finland is a little short of 10.000.
The Common Raven reaches breeding age at the age of three years, during their fourth summer, having already found a partner before that. The mating display, which is a handsome sight to behold, begins early at spring. The couple shows off their diverse aeronautic skills by playing and prancing high in the air, performing steep dives etc.
After a suitable amount of performing, the birds begin nesting. The nest is built high on the top of a tree or a cliff, or in many cases a nest from earlier years is improved upon.
In southern Finland the eggs are laid early in March, and at the beginning of April in southern Finland. The female broods the greenish-blue, dark-spotted eggs, numbering from three to six, for a duration of three weeks. During this time, the male feeds the female. The young birds stay in the nest for five to six weeks, after which they stay together until the end of the summer, only forming larger flocks during autumn.
The birds spend the winter in the proximity of their vast breeding areas, but do wander around a little as well. However, In Finland they tend to be fairly loyal towards their home area and spouses, rarely leaving the country, especially overseas.
In the manner of other crows, the Common Raven is laden with wisdom. Many beliefs have also been instilled upon the raven by the common folk, which isn’t really strange, considering how powerful and diverse the bird is in both its appearance and behavior. Depending on the times, the attitudes towards the bird have varied between viewing it as a useful waste disposal unit or a ruination of livelihood. Sometimes its wisdom has been respected and the bird considered a symbol of civilization, and at other times, perhaps more commonly, it has been considered to be a devil’s minion and a herald of death. In Finland, the latter views have typically taken precedence, especially during the last few centuries. Attempts have been made to eradicate the bird, with a steadfast belief in its inherent evilness, sanctioned by men of faith. Somewhere in the reindeer herding zone of Finland, there is a saying which is a good demonstration on how the bird has traditionally been viewed: “The Raven is a bird of three evils, made from the ashes of burned down homes, put together by all the wickedness, with a beak like the devil’s axe”.
The incessant killing attempts, however, only helped to refine the bird to become an even better survivor. A wise man has once said: “The raven was here long before us, and will still remain long after we are gone”.
During the latter half of the last century however, the raven has begun to be more appreciated in Finland as well, even to the point of being viewed with respect and admiration. For some reason, the word “korppi” (raven in Finnish) has been assigned the meaning “and old and wrinkly woman” in urbaanisanakirja.com (the Finnish equivalent of urbandictionary.com). In military jargon, the word stands for the highest sub-NCO rank, corporal (“korpraali” in Finnish).
- Corvus ruficollis Brown-necked Raven arokorppi
- Corvus albus Pied Crow afrikanvaris
- Corvus frugilegus Rook mustavaris
- Corvus corone Carrion Crow varis
- Corvus brachyrhynchos American Crow amerikanvaris