Raven Researchers Bernd Heinrich and John Marzluff

IMG_1618Perhaps the two most well respected raven researchers are Bernd Heinrich and John Marzluff. Heinrich is a biologist and professor at the University of Vermont,and has been studying ravens since the  1980s in the woods of Maine. He has documented his findings in two well known titles, Ravens in the Snow and Mind of
the Raven.

Wildlife biologist John Marzluff is a professor at the University of Washington.  Along with Heinrich, he set up a raven aviary in Maine in the area Heinrich had been working in.  The results of the study were published in Dog Days,Raven Nights, and document the impressive intelligence of these birds and the social behavior that has insured their evolutionary success.

Marzluff is best known for his study about crow fledglings that revealed their memory skills,an important attribute for problem solving in any species. Marzluff and his students attached GPS trackers to fledglings in a nest on campus in order to track their whereabouts after they left the nest. The mother and father crows were not happy about this invasion of their nest and cawed loudly at them, even flying at them. It became apparent that the crows were recognizing their faces. As Marzluff and his students walked around campus, the crow parents would dive down at them, cawing excitedly. Marzluff and the students couldn’t walk on campus without attracting these angry birds. However, once Marzluff and his students wore masks over their faces to hide their identity, the birds no longer bothered them.  Pretty smart birds!

When Marzluff’s book Dogs, Days, Raven Nights was published, he was interviewed by his publisher Yale University Press about his views on ravens since the time of his study many years ago in Maine.“ (Ravens have always been)…. intriguing and always interesting to me, but I saw them only as a wild animal that very occasionally interacted with humans.  Now (after my studies)  I see them as fully interactive with and influential on humans.   I now see ravens and people as completely intertwined; as we affect them so do they affect us.  We are in no insignificant part who we are because of our species’ co-evolution with the raven.”

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How can you tell a raven from a crow?
While crows and ravens share many physical characteristics, they also have obvious differences such as size and wingspan that allow us to tell them apart.

Raven VS Crow
Common Ravens Crows
Weigh 2-3 1 pound or less
Tails are long and wedge-shaped Tails are shorter and rounded
Wingspan is 4-5 feet Wingspan is 2-3 feet
Wings rustle in flight No wing sounds
Totally black mouth beak eyes feet Beaks are lighter colored
Shaggy hair on throat Smooth throat
Long thick beaks Shorter thinner beaks
Ravens soar in flight Crows flap their wings
Call is deep quork  quork Call is weaker caw caw

Watch a PBS nature episode on Crows
A Murder of Crows ~ Full Episode | Nature | PBS