Corvus corax (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Passeriformes > Corvidae
The Raven is a majestic species of rugged uplands, highly intelligent and steeped in mythology. It is the UK's largest crow.
The size of a Buzzard, the Raven is a strong flier, regularly performing tumbling aerobatics in flight. Its all-dark plumage, heavy bill and diamond-shaped tail are distinctive, as is its harsh, evocative 'kronk-kronk-kronk' call. Paired birds are territorial and will chase away interlopers. The species feeds mainly on carrion.
The Raven is a relatively early breeder, laying four to six eggs from February to April. Following a decline and numbers contraction in this species' range towards the west in the 20th century, the UK population has since risen again and the range has been extending eastwards once more.
Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Raven
Raven identification is sometimes difficult. The following article may help when identifying Raven.
A black crow flies over - but is it a Crow, a Rook or even a Raven? Let this video help you to separate these confusing species, along with their smaller cousins: Jackdaw and Chough.
Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Raven, provided by xeno-canto contributors.
Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses
Our interactive online courses are a great way to develop your bird identification skills, whether you're new to the hobby or a competent birder looking to hone your abilities.Browse training courses
Status and Trends
Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.
This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.
Between the 1968-72 and 1988-91 atlas periods, the Raven's range contracted from some areas of Scotland and northern England. Declines in southern Scotland and northern England were associated with large-scale afforestation (Marquiss et al. 1978), while closer sheep husbandry and conversion of pasture to arable were also implicated (Mearns 1983). A thorough survey of northwest Wales during 1998 to 2005 found at least 69% more nesting pairs than a previous survey of the same area during 1978-85 and evidence of an increase of 173% since around 1950, at a rate that accelerated after 1990 (Driver 2006). Using data from the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme and Bird Atlas 2007-11, produced an estimate of 3,241 (1,035-5,447) breeding pairs across Scotland (Wilson et al. 2019).
Ravens have increased along the English-Welsh border and colonised extensive new areas of the south coast, western and midland England and southern Scotland since 1988-91 (Cross 2002, Balmer et al. 2013). BBS indicates overall increase in England and Scotland since 1995 and stability in Wales over the same period. Nest success appears to have improved slightly, although the number of fledglings per breeding attempt is unchanged. There has been a widespread increase across Europe since 1980 (PECBMS: PECBMS 2020a>): increases are evident in all regions but have been weakest in the south and west, including UK (PECBMS 2009).
|UK breeding population||+43% increase (1995–2020)|
The Raven is now as much a bird of pastoral or mixed lowland farmland and forestry as it is of the uplands, having expanded eastwards over recent decades, although densities remain highest in those regions in the north and west of Britain and upland and coastal Ireland that formed the strongholds before the recent range expansion.
Occupied 10-km squares in UK
|No. occupied in breeding season||2141|
|% occupied in breeding season||71|
|No. occupied in winter||2363|
|% occupied in winter||78|
European Distribution Map
Relative frequency by habitat
The Raven's British & Irish range has expanded by 79% in winter and by 68% in the breeding season since the 1981–84 Winter Atlas and 1968–72 Breeding Atlas, respectively.
Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK
|% change in range in breeding season (1968–72 to 2008–11)||+59.9%|
|% change in range in winter (1981–84 to 2007–11)||+97.2%|
Raven is recorded throughout the year on up to 20% of complete lists.
Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.
Lifecycle and body size information about Raven, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.
|Field Codes||2-letter: RN | 5-letter code: RAVEN | Euring: 15720|
For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name
Interpretation and scientific publications about Raven from BTO scientists.
Causes of change
There is little good evidence available regarding the drivers of the breeding population change in this species in the UK.
Further information on causes of change
Historical decreases in Raven numbers across the UK occurred but the population has increased again during from the mid-twentieth century and the species has reoccupied much of its former range. This has bought it into conflict with people due to concerns about damage to livestock. Adult survival rates and breeding productivity have increased over time, and the consequent population recovery was most likely aided by reduced persecution; ringing recovery information suggests that the frequency of illegal killing may have declined in the twenty-first century, although this finding should be treated with caution as another possible interpretation is that ringed birds which have been shot and poisoned birds are now less likely to be reported. Recent increases in licensed control have occurred in Scotland, and a report investigating population dynamics has therefore been carried out in order to assess the effects of control on Scottish raven populations (Wilson et al. 2019).
Information about conservation actions
The Raven has been increasing and expanding its range in the UK over the last 30 years and therefore is not currently a species of conservation concern. However, there are also concerns that illegal control may be occurring (see Causes of Change section, above) which could have local population level impacts in some areas.
This species causes conflict with farmers due to concerns about damage to livestock and legal control now occurs in Scotland. There are also concerns about the possible impact of Raven populations on other native species such as upland waders. For example, a study looking at the UK uplands found no significant spatial or temporal relationships which could justify lethal control of Ravens between any of the five species of waders studied, but did find near significant relationships with curlew and lapwing trends, which the authors suggested merited further investigation (Amar et al. 2010b).
To ensure that the conservation status of this species remains unchanged and that the recent gains are not reversed, any policy decisions about the legal control of Ravens, whether for economic reasons or in order to benefit other native species, should be based on scientific evidence. A review in Scotland used population modelling to assess the effects of licenced control of Raven and define levels of control that are likely to be 'sustainable' (Wilson et al. 2019). They concluded that the maximum level of 'sustainable' control (i.e. control that will not result in long-term decline) is around 200 non-breeding Ravens per 100 x 100 km square in Scotland. However, they caution that this figure is subject to uncertainty around some of the information input into the model and to variation in aspects such as adult survival rates and breeding densities; hence the level of sustainable control may be lower in some areas and further understanding of Raven movements and breeding ecology is needed. Further research is also still be required in order to make evidence-based decisions about control in order to benefit other native species (e.g. research into the possible effects of Ravens on Curlews and Lapwings).
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