Alaska Birds Birds of Alaska

Bald eagle

Bald eagles can weigh up to 14 pounds and attain a height of 3 to 3 1/2 feet. They have a huge wing span of 6–8 feet. Typically, the female of the species is larger that the male and bald eagles living in the north are believed to be larger than ones in the south. They can live up to 30 years in the wild and even longer in captivity.

Alaska Common Raven (Corvus corax)


The Common Raven, also known as the Northern Raven, is a large all-black passerine bird in the crow family. Found across the northern hemisphere, it is the most widely distributed of all corvids. There are eight known subspecies with little variation in appearance, however recent research has demonstrated significant genetic differences between populations from different regions.

Raven eye

Together with the Thick-billed Raven, it is the largest corvid and possibly the heaviest passerine bird; at maturity, the Common Raven is between 22 to 27 inches in length, with recorded weights ranging from 1.5 to 3.6 pounds. Common Ravens typically live about 10 to 15 years in the wild, although lifespans of up to 40 years have been recorded. Young birds may travel in flocks, but later mate for life, with each mated pair defending a territory.

The Common Raven has coexisted with humans for thousands of years, and in some areas has been so successful that it is considered a pest. Part of its success comes from its omnivorous diet; Common Ravens are extremely versatile and opportunistic in finding sources of nutrition, feeding on carrion, insects and garbage, in addition to cereal grains, berries, fruit and small animals.

Some remarkable feats of problem-solving have been observed in the species, leading to the belief that it has great intelligence. Over the centuries, it has been the subject of mythology, folklore, art and literature. In many indigenous cultures, including those of Scandinavia, ancient Ireland and Wales, Bhutan and the northwest coast of North America, the Common Raven has been revered as a spiritual figure or god.

Ravens and Alaska natives
"trickster" spirit. Long recognized as one of the most intelligent birds, the Raven also has a less than savory image throughout history as a scavenger that does not discriminate between humans and animals. Ingenious and versatile, Ravens are members of the crow family, which includes jays and magpies. They are found everywhere in Alaska and adapt to very different terrain, from deserts to mountains – a feat requiring high intelligence.

They learn to find food even in the harshest conditions, such as the dead of winter in Alaska. As scavengers, Ravens know how and when to take advantage of other animals to help them cadge a meal they couldn't otherwise reach. In Yellowstone, bison that don't survive the harsh winter attract coyotes, whose sharp teeth and strong jaws rip open the tough, frozen hides – making the meat accessible to watchful Ravens. They also have been seen following wild wolf packs to a kill; some stories even have Ravens flying ahead of the wolves to lead them to prey.

The largest member of the Crow Family, Ravens average 24 inches tall, with a wingspan of 46-56 inches. Their coloration is all-black with a metallic shine of purple or violet that is noticeable in certain lighting conditions. The bill is large and stout. In flight, the tail appears wedge-shaped, which distinguishes it from crows.

The Common Raven's scientific name, Corvus corax, means "Raven croaker." Noted for their calls, Bernd Heinrich writes in "Ravens in Winter", how many researchers have studied Ravens and their vocalizations. One observation that was consistent throughout the findings is that Ravens have a wide repertoire of vocalizations.
These sounds, though, vary greatly from area to area. One bird's quork was another bird's kra, and was another's caw. The researcher's correlated Raven behavior with the calls, as well. These activities were then lumped into categories, nestling's kaah for hunger, antagonist kaaa for defense, quork for territorial advertisement. But what the researchers also found while reviewing the sonograms of each other's work, was that they, the researchers, often found little common ground. One's "flight call" was another's "territorial advertisement".

Ravens are strong fliers that can hover in place like American kestrels or soar like a hawk. They may fly like stunt pilots at times, doing partial barrel-rolls in flight. The birds may form large flocks of over several hundred individuals during their autumnal migration. A Raven is every bit as alert as a crow and possesses sharp eyesight and hearing. Ravens are considered among the Ravensmost intelligent of all birds; like crows, they can learn to imitate a variety of sounds, including the human voice. In nature, their calls include guttural croaks, gurgling noises, and a sharp, metallic "tock".

Ravens eat rodents, insects, grain, fruit, bird eggs and refuse. They consume much carrion, especially in winter and will even prey upon sick and injured animals. The Raven is an omnivorous species, meaning they will eat both plants and meat. As much as half of their diet can be live prey.

Raven Myths:
Raven, like Mink and Coyote and other spirit beings of the Northwest mythology, was as fickle and unpredictable as nature and its seasons. Raven was a shapechanger, who could assume any form - human or animal. Raven was a glutton and trickster, but he showed pity for the naked people he found in a giant clamshell. His trickery brought them the essentials for existence in a harsh world - game and fish and fowl, fire, clothing, shelter - and with them the rituals that would protect them from the dark spirits lurking about.
The Raven stories are both entertaining - as Raven's mischief often backfired, but also instructive - teaching us about the Northwest Indians' way of life and the origin of their customs.

Alaska Birds

• American Robin
• American Wigeon
• Arctic Tern
• Belted Kingfisher
• Black Oystercatcher
• Bohemian Waxwings
• Canada Goose
• Canvasback
• Common Snipe
• Eagles
• King Eider
• Ducks
• Great Horned Owl
• Gulls
• Hairy Woodpecker
• Blue Heron
• Kingfisher
• Long-Tailed Duck (Oldsquaw)
• Loons
• Northern Pintail
• Owls
• Ptarmigan
• Puffins
• Ravens
• Red-faced Cormorant
• Red-necked Grebe
• Rufous Hummingbird
• Sandhill Crane
• Sandpiper
• Semipalmated Plover
• Sparrows
• Steller's Jay
• Swans
• Tundra Swan
• Varied Thrush
• Woodpeckers
• Lesser Yellowlegs
• Yellow Warbler