As is the case with a number of species that occupy the southwestern deserts, the Chihuahuan Raven has been relatively understudied. It is a social species, and from late summer through the fall and winter, Chihuahuan Ravens often roost in large groups that can number into the hundreds or even many thousands.
Scattered trees or windmills serve as prized nest locations in the open habitats of Chihuahuan Ravens. Some nests have even been known to be constructed from barbed wire.
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Description of the Chihuahuan Raven
The Chihuahuan Raven is all black, with a small patch of white-based feathers on the sides of the neck which can be difficult to see. It has a heavy bill and long nasal bristles. In flight, it shows a slightly wedge-shaped tail. Length: 19 in. Wingspan: 44 in.
The sexes are similar.
Seasonal change in appearance
Juveniles are similar to adults.
Chihuahuan Ravens inhabit arid grasslands and scrub.
Chihuahuan Ravens eat insects, rodents, lizards, eggs, fruits, grain, and carrion.
Chihuahuan Ravens forage primarily on the ground.
Chihuahuan Ravens sometimes occur in large flocks during the winter.
The Chihuahuan Raven is the least studied corvid in North America, with many basic questions about its biology unanswered.
Calls include a harsh croak.
Common Ravens are larger and have gray-based neck feathers, as well as longer bills with shorter nasal bristles, and a more pronounced wedge shape to the tail.
American Crows are smaller and do not have wedge-shaped tails.
The Chihuahuan Raven’s nest is a bulky clump of sticks and even wire, is lined with softer materials, and is placed in a tree, windmill, or utility pole.
Number: 5-6 eggs.
Color: Greenish in color with darker markings.
Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 18-21 days, and leave the nest in about another 30 days, though continuing to associate with the adults for some time.
Bent Life History of the Chihuahuan Raven
Published by the Smithsonian Institution between the 1920s and the 1950s, the Bent life history series of monographs provide an often colorful description of the birds of North America. Arthur Cleveland Bent was the lead author for the series. The Bent series is a great resource and often includes quotes from early American Ornithologists, including Audubon, Townsend, Wilson, Sutton and many others.
Bent Life History for the Chihuahuan Raven – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.
CORVUS CRYPTOLEUCUS Couch
The white-necked raven is smaller than the American raven, but larger than any of the crows; it has a relatively shorter and deeper bill than the larger raven; and it derives its name from the fact that the feathers of the neck and upper breast are pure white for at least their basal half. The name cryptoleucus is well chosen, for the white bases are well hidden; they can be seen, with the specimen in hand, by lifting the feathers; but in life they are seldom seen, except when the wind ruffles the plumage or when the bird bends its neck far downward in feeding.
This raven is essentially a bird of the deserts and open plains of the Southwestern States and Mexico. It formerly occupied a wider range in Colorado, western Kansas, and western Nebraska, but, with changing conditions, it has practically disappeared from these regions. Aiken and Warren (1914) have this to say about the withdrawal of the whitenecked raven from its range in Colorado, where it was formerly abundant:
Some strong incentive was necessary to have induced these birds to wander northward from their native range in western Texas and New Mexico. This was offered by the slaughter and extermination of the buffalo herds on the western plains which was going on during the late sixties and early seventies. Pioneer settlers were pushing ahead of the railroads; transportation was by teams, and travelers camped along the road and fed grain to their stock. The Ravens, probably first attracted by the buffalo carcasses that strewed the northern plains later followed along the routes of team travel and fed on scattered grain left by campers. By 1874 the buffalo were nearly gone; completed railroads had put the wagon freighters out of business; frequent houses along most roads provided shelter for travelers and camping became unnecessary; the food supply of the White-necked Raven was curtailed and the bird presently retired to its former habitat.
The same thing happened to a less extent in New Mexico, for Mrs. Bailey (1928) says that “before the buffalo disappeared the birds occurred much farther north. * * * In New Mexico, at the present time, they breed from the lowest, hottest valleys of the State up to about 5,000 feet, and less commonly a thousand feet higher to 6.000 feet at Silver City”
As we drove westward from the valley of the San Pedro River toward the Huachuca Mountains, in southern Arizona, we crossed a wide, unbroken plain, a steady, gradual rise of gently sloping land; for the first 10 miles it was covered with a scanty growth of mesquite, creosote bushes, yuccas, and various cacti, typical of the arid plains of that region; but, as we drew near the mountains, approaching 4,000 feet in altitude, the plain gradually changed to an open grassy prairie, broken only by the rows of scattered trees that grew along the washes extending outward from the canyons and by an occasional solitary mesquite of medium size. On the grassy prairie horned larks, meadowlarks, lark buntings, and lark sparrows were common; and everywhere the white-necked ravens were in evidence, and their bulky nests were conspicuous even in the most distant trees. Such an environment as this seems to be the typical habitat of this raven in other portions of its range.
Courtship: The springtime activities of this raven are thus described by Herbert Brandt (1940) as observed by him in Texas: “During early April the raven begins in the broad mesquite area to make this his bridal bower, to engage in his courtship, and to select the site of his future home. The building process is carried on leisurely because at that season there are many social affairs and quick nest-building is unnecessary since egg-laying is a May urge. It is then that the community takes to the sky, and the male especially is wont to perform in the air: soaring, side-slipping, wheeling, and tumbling, thus distinguishing himself as an aerialist extraordinary. At that time his snowy-lined neck-piece becomes so enlarged that the feathers stand straight Out like a fluffy boa, while those on his chin upturn at an acute angle, and the over-weening, black-bewhiskered rogue is then the picture, to his ebony admirer, no doubt, of a handsome, chivalrous swain.
Nesting: We found it a simple matter to locate the nests of the white-necked raven on the open plains of southern Arizona as they were usually in solitary trees and conspicuous at a long distance. One of our nests was in a large sycamore along a wash, 30 feet from the ground. Another was 30 feet from the ground in an ash on the open plain. The other five nests examined were all in small mesquites on the open plain, 9 or 10 feet from the ground. Frank Willard’s notes for the same region record one nest 40 feet up in a sycamore, one 10 feet uo in a ~~~illow, and one 12 feet from the ground in a mesquite in a wash.
Major Bendire (1895) says that “the favorite nesting sites in southern Arizona are low, scrubby mesquite trees, next oak, ash, desert willow, and yucca, and in southern and western Texas ebony and hackberry bushes are likewise not infrequently used for this purpose.
“The nests are usually poorly constructed affairs, and are a trifle larger than those of the common Crow. Outwardly they are mainly composed of thorny twigs, while the inner parts are lined with cattle hair, rabbit fur, and frequently with pieces of rabbit skin, wool, dry cottonwood bark, grass, or tree moss, according to locality. This lining is frequently well quilted and again apparently thrown in loose. They are extremely filthy and smell horribly. Old nests are repaired from year to year, some of them being, as Lieutenant Benson expresses it, seven or eight stories high, showing use for as many years”
The nests that we examined were rather loosely built of large sticks externally, but the inner cup was deeply hollowed, compactly made, and smoothly lined with strips of inner bark, cow’s hair, wool, and occasionally a few rags. A typical nest measured 20 inches in outside diameter, and the inner cavity was 8 inches in diameter and 5 inches deep.
In addition to the sites mentioned above, nests have been found in low mesquite bushes 4 feet from the ground, in walnut trees, cottonwoods, palo verdes, tall tree yuccas, and giant cactus, as well as on telegraph poles, or windmill towers, or on almost any structure that will hold them.
Mr. Brandt (1940) writes of their nest-building:
As nearly as we could ascertain, the female does all the carpentry, but her glossy mate escorts her back and forth, strutting, full-chested, about her, puffing out his throat and uttering purring croaks of encouragement. She seems to pay not the least bit of attention to him, but hurries on with her building, interLacing the sticks and then adding thereto, in the base, a binding mat of grasses, rootlets, pieces of rope, newspapers, or other handy trash. She proceeds then to elevate the outer wall with well chosen sticks and at the same time raises the soft inner lining until a deep cup is formed, usually finished with cow or horse hair, though rabbit fur likewise is favored. The bird molds the basin of the nest with her breast, pushing, prodding, and pounding with sharp movements, all the while snuggling down into the bowl. * * * In one case, in Arizona, a nest was found in the process of being colorfully decorated with the black and white fur of the skunk, and the very air was redolent of that fad. A few hundred feet away we came upon the odoriferous carcass of the former owner of that fur with its back cleanly plucked. In the More museum are three ravens’ nests made entirely of rusty wire strands instead of sticks, and these have been wound into a rather neat, presentable, wire basket, proving the dexterity of this ingenious bird.
The white-necked raven is a late breeder. We found our first eggs on May 29, and some new nests were still empty at that date. Out of 66 records mentioned by Bendire (1895) the earliest is May 6. “Only twelve other sets were recorded for May, and these usually in the latter part of the month. All the remaining sets were taken in June, and fully half of these after the middle of that month. *** I can only account for the remarkably late nesting of this species by the fact that insects and small reptiles, which probably furnish the larger portion of the food of these birds, are much more abundant in southern Arizona after the rainy season commences, about the last of May, than before, and these birds seemingly understand this and act accordingly”
Shaler E. Aldous (1942), in his report on this raven, says: “Activity around old nests begins in April, and sometimes the ravens stay constantly in the vicinity of chosen nests as if maintaining claim to them”
Eggs: The white-necked raven lays three to seven eggs, rarely eight, but the commonest numbers are five, six, or seven. I cannot improve on Major Bendire’s (1895) fine description of them, which is based on a series of 288 eggs in the United States National Museum, so I shall quote it here:
The eggs of the White-necked Raven are, in nearly every instance, readily distinguishable from those of the other species of the Corvinae found in North America, and this is due to the characteristic style of their markings. The ground color varies from pale green to grayish green, and only very rarely to a light bluish green. Two distinct types of markings are found among these eggs, the principal but usually not the most notable one consisting of a mass of longitudinal streaks and blotches of different shades of lilac, lavender grey, and drab, running from pole to pole of the egg, and these are again more or iess hidden and partly obliterated by heavier and more regularly defined spots and blotches of different shades of brown. In not a few sets these lighter and more subdued shades are wanting, and are replaced by a more conspicuous brown; but almost all of the eggs show the peculiar longitudinal streaks and hair lines so prominently characteristic of the eggs of the genus Myiarchns. Besides the more regularly shaped markings common to the balance of the eggs of our Cotvinae, they are on an average also decidedly lighter colored, and a few eggs are almost unspotted. Scarcely any two sets are exactly alike. The shell is strong and compact. In shape they are mostly ovate; a few are elliptical and elongate ovate.
The measurements of 288 eggs in the United States National Museum average 44.20 by 30.22 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 48.8 by 33.8 and 38.1 by 27.9 millimeters.
Young: According to Bendire (189S), “only one brood is raised in a season. Both sexes assist in incubation, which lasts about twentyone days; this usually begins only after the set is completed; but young birds varying in size are sometimes found in the same nest.” Young birds apparently remain in the nest about a month, though I have no definite information on this; they probably hatch late in June or early in July, and young birds of various ages have been found in the nests all through July. “Early in August the young birds begin leaving the nests, and when they have attained their growth young and old gather together in enormous flocks” (Swarth, 1904).
Plumages: Nestlings are like other young ravens or crows, naked at first but soon scantily covered with brownish-gray down. They are fully fledged in the juvenal plumage before they leave the nest. The juvenal body plumage is dull black, without any of the purplish gloss of ihe adults; but the bases of the feathers of the neck, chest, and breast are pure white; the lanceolate feathers of the throat, so prominent in the adult, are lacking; the wings and tail are as in the adult; the basal half of the lower mandible is light colored, probably fleshcolored in life. Young birds that Mr. Swarth (1904) raised in captivity began to molt about the first of October and were in full winter plumage by the first of November, having renewed all the contour plumage, but not the wings and tail.
I have seen no molting adults, but probably their molts are similar to those of the young birds.
Food: Ralph H. Imler (1939) has made a comparative study of the winter food of these ravens and crows in Oklahoma. He concluded that the crows were apparently more beneficial than the ravens, as they ate many more insects and weed seeds. The percentages of the different kinds of food found in the stomachs of 20 ravens killed in December were as follows: Beetles, 0.1; grasshoppers, 1.8; mammals, 4.5; sorghums, 29.8; corn, 17.3; melons and citron seeds, 3.0; hackherries, 37.5; sunflowers, 4.5; and debris, 1.5 percent.
It seems to be quite as omnivorous as other ravens and crows and quite as useful as a scavenger, picking up whatever scraps of food are thrown out from camps and kitchens and carrying off and hiding what it does not eat. Major Bendire (1895) saw one dig a trench and bury a salmon croquette in it, covering it up and marking it for future reference; the Major dug it up, and when the raven returned for it he was disappointed and flew away in disgust.
Mrs. Bailey (1928) lists its food as “principally animal matter, inchiding carrion (as dead jack rabbits), cottontails and cotton rats, field mice, lizards, cicadas, alfalfa caterpillars and ‘conchuela’; also cactus, wild fruit, and probably waste grain. Stomachs of five young about ten days old examined by Ligon contained three small nestlings, probably horned larks, birds’ eggs, a small lizard, beetles, grasshoppers, and ‘jar flies.
Vernon Bailey (1903) says: “The abundant and juicy fruit of the cactus, Opuntia. Cereus, and Mammalaria, supplies part and probably a large part of their food during July, August, and September, enabling the ravens as well as some of the mammals and even men to make long journeys into ~vaterless valleys with comparative comfort”
Since the above was written, an extensive research report on the white-necked raven has been published by the Fish and Wildlife Service (Aldous. 1942), in which some 35 pages are devoted to a study of the food of this species, to which the reader is referred for details. The summary contains the following general statement: “Laboratory examinations of 707 adult and 120 nestling stomachs of the white-necked raven and field examinations covering almost every month show the bird to be an omnivorous and resourceful feeder and demonstrate that its seasonal food is governed largely by the factor of availability. In all, 288 different items (214 of animal and 74 of vegetable origin) were identified (table 5, p. 47), and if all material found in the stomachs could have been specifically identified no doubt the number would have been increased. Although the animal items far outnumbered the vegetable, the total volumes of the two kinds of food were about equal in the adult diet. The nestlings, though, were almost entirely carnivorous”
Insects made up most of the bulk of the food; grasshoppers (51.21 percent) were the largest item, beetles being second in volume, and Lepidoptera (mostly cutworms and other injurious larvae) third. Hemiptera, such as stink bugs and leafhoppers, were consumed in small quantities, mainly by the nestlings.
Spiders, earthworms, myriapods, and sRails were eaten sparingly.
“Mammalian food was important in the diet, ranking second in the animal food of the adults and third in quantity in the nestling food. Most of it consisted of carrion, which was obtained chiefly from carcasses of horses, cows, sheep, and rabbits. * * * Small rodents were eaten sparingly. * * * Birds, including domestic poultry, and their eggs were found in but a small proportion of the stomachs. * * * Reptiles and amphibians formed about 6 percent of the food of the nestlings but only slightly more than 2 percent of that of the adults. * * *
“Cultivated crops offer the greatest supply of food to the white-necked ravens and so are somewhat responsible for the sporadic concentrations of these birds. Grain sorghums were the most important plant food item found in the stomachs examined and made up more than a fourth of the adult birds’ subsistence. * * * Cultivated crops of less importance that are attacked by the raven and may be severely damaged locally are corn, peanuts, melons, tomatoes, castor-beans, sunflower seeds, and pears. * * * Wheat, oats, barley, and rye are minor crops in the raven territory and were not fed on excessively by the birds examined.
“Wild fruits were consumed in large quantities during the summer and early fall and therefore played an important part in helping reduce the amount of feeding done in cultivated crops at that time”
Behavior: In a general way the behavior of the white-necked raven is much like that of its smaller relative, the western crow, though its ‘flight is rather more like that of the larger ravens. Mr. Swarth (1904) writes:
They are usually quite tame and unsuspicious, paying little or no attention to a man on horseback or a wagon passing by; but after being shot at a few times soon become very wary and hard to approach, and as they are usually out on the open prairie it is an easy matter for them to keep out of the way, On one occasion I approached a flock of thirty or forty busily engaged in catching grasshoppers, and as they began to leave long before I arrived within gunshot, I thought to try an experiment; wondering if an appeal to their curiosity might not be as successful as it usually was with jays. Tying a stone in the. corner of a red bandana handkerchief, I tossed it high into the air, and the result far exceeded my expectations; for though standing in plain sight, they came headlong to see what it was that had fluttered to the ground, and from that time on I had no difficulty in securing White-necked Ravens. When one or more were shot out of a flock the remainder did not fly off and alight again, but usually circled about, keeping in rather a compact body and ascending higher and higher; not descending to the ground for a considerable length of time, and usually a long ways off. * * *
In the spring of 1903, I noticed a place on the plains some eight or ten miles from the mountains, where some species of bird was evidently roasting in large numbers. The plains are covered with brush at this point, mostly scrubby mesquite, and for a space some two hundred yards long and twenty-five or thirty yards wide the trees were almost destroyed by the use to which they had been put. The ground beneath was indies deep with excreta, and the trunks and branches of the trees were white with the same; while they were almost totally denuded of leaves, except at the extreme top where a little green still lingered. In many cases the limbs were broken down by the weight of the birds. From the appearance of the excreta it was evidently a large species of bird that was roosting there, and as on a careful examination none but raven feathers could be found lying about, I came to the conclusion that it was they that were using the place, though I never found them roosting in such large numbers in any on~ place before.
William Beebe (1905) thus describes the coming of a vast horde of these ravens to roost in a canyon in Mexico:
And now as the sun’s disk silhouettes the upraised arms of an organ cactus on the opposite summit, scattered squads of another army of birds appear and focus to their nightly rendezvous: the White-necked Ravens of the whole world seem to be passing, so great are their numbers. As far as the eye can see, each side of the canyon gives up its complement of black forms; one straggling ahead uttering now and then a deep, hoarse-voiced croak. From all the neighbouring country they pour in, passing low before us, one and all disappearing in the black depths of a narrow, boulder-framed gorge. A raven comes circling down from above and instantly draws our eye to what we have not noticed before, a vast black cloud of the birds soaring above the barranca with all the grace of flight of vultures. The cloud descends, draws in upon itself, and, becoming funnel-shaped, sifts slowly through the twilight into the gorge where the great brotherhood of ravens is united and at rest.
Bradford Torrey (1904) writes amusingly of being “mobbed” by a flock of these ravens near Tucson, Ariz. As he approached a lonely ranch a flock of these birds “rose from the scrub not far in advance, with the invariable hoarse chorus of quark, quark.” He continues:
I thought nothing of it, the sight being so much an every-day matter, till after a little I began to be aware that the whole flock seemed to be concentrating its attention upon my unsuspecting, inoffensive self. There must have been fifty of the big black birds. Round and round they went in circles, just above my head, moving forward as I moved, vociferating every one as he came near, “quark, quark”
At first I was amused; it was something new and interesting. * * * But before very long the novelty of the thing wore off; the persecution grew tiresome. Enough is as good as a feast; and I had had enough. “Quark, quark,” they yelled, all the while settling nearer,: or so I fancied,: till it seemed as if they actually meant violence. They were doing precisely what a flock of crows does to an owl or a hawk; they were mobbing me. * * * The commotion lasted for at least half a mile. Then the birds wearied of it, and went off about their business. All but one of them, I mean to say. He had no such notion. For ten minutes longer he stayed by. His persistency was devilish. It became almost unbearable. The single voice was more exasperating than the chorus. * * * “Quark, quark I” the black villain cried, wagging his impish head, and swooping low to spit the insult into my ear.
On another occasion he watched the playful antics of a flock of ravens going to their roost, of which he says: “Again and again, in the course of their doublings and duckings, I saw the birds ~turn what looked to be a complete sidewise somersault. * * * Sure I am that more than once I saw a bird flat on his back in the air, * * * and to all appearance, as I say, he did not turn back, but came up like a flash on the other side.” On subsequent occasions he concluded “that the birds turned but halfway over; that is to say, they lay on their backs for an instant, and then, as by the recoil of a spring, recovered themselves”
While the above play was going on, “another and a larger flock were sailing in mazy circles after the manner of sea-gulls. * * * More .than once I have watched hundreds of the birds thus engaged, not all at the same elevation, be it understood, but circle above circle~~* * * till the top ones were almost at heaven’s gate”
Field marks: “The field character that best distinguishes the whitenecked raven from the crow, with which it intermingles on the north and east boundaries of its range in Texas and Oklahoma, is without question the raven’s less open-throated and distinctly lower-pitched and guttural voice. Other distinguishing field characteristics are the raven’s slightly larger size; its longer and coarser beak; its slightly more rounded tail silhouette when in flight; and its tendency to soar, at which time the tips of the primaries are separated and upturned. Occasionally, also, the white bases of its neck feathers can be seen when the plumage is ruffled by the wind.” (Aldous, 1942).
Eco,sonsic status: Mr. Aldous (1942) says about this: “It is cxtremely difficult to arrive at a generally applicable verdict ~vith respect to a bird with such varied habits and such an adaptable nature as the white-necked raven. The occurrence of ravens in large numbers makes them potentially capable of doing either severe damage or much good, and during the season their habits may vary from one extreme to the other. If the birds were evenly distributed throughout the year and did not congregate they probably would be more beneficial than detrimental. In judging the economic status of the ravens examined in this study their yearly food habits may be segregated roughly into beneficial, 37 percent; detrimental, 33 percent; and of neutral significance, 30 percent. * * *
“In order to obtain the farmer’s point of view regarding the raven, a farm-to-farm canvass covering 100 farms was made in Howard County, Tex., in April 1936. * **
“The 100 farmers interviewed estimated that they grew about 13,644 acres of sorghum each year, and every farmer but one considered that the greatest loss the ravens caused him was to this crop. The estimated annual loss per acre ranged from nothing to $3 and averaged $0.66. At this average rate the annual loss from the total acreage of grain sorghums grown in Howard County would be $49,500. * * *
“The following opinions comparing the ravens with other pests were volunteered. Six farmers considered small birds: including lark buntings, English sparrows, and blackbirds: more detrimental than ravens to the grain sorghum crop; two thought that rabbits were as bad as ravens and two thought them worse; two believed that ducks consumed more grain sorghums than ravens; and two said that coyotes were more destructive than ravens to their melons”
The ravens are, also, accused of spreading contagious diseases of livestock and poultry, such as hog cholera, blackleg and roup, through their carrion feeding habits; but this has not been proved.
In some treeless regions, the ravens have formed the habit of building their nests on the cross arms of telephone poles. As they often use old haywire and cast-off barbed wire in their nests, these cause short circuits; this has cost one telephone company $2,500 to $5,500 annually to patrol the line and keep it clear. “There have been as many as 202 instances of wire trouble that called for special investigation in a year (1934), and between 700 and 800 pounds of scrap wire have been removed annually from the nests and the ground beneath the lines. Shooting, poisoning, and trapping have accounted for 1,500 to 2,000 ravens yearly, but the trouble persists”
Various control measures, such as shooting to kill or frighten away the birds, catching them in steel traps, poisoning them, or destroying their nests, eggs and young, have been tried with varying success, but none of these is very satisfactory. “The most selective and safest means of reducing the numbers of white-necked ravens is by catching them alive in large cage traps of the type known as the Australian crow trap that have demonstrated their efficiency on various occasions (fig. 12). One trap that was operated for 12 days in November caught 512 whitenecked ravens; and 4 traps, used at one place from September 1934 until the following spring, caught 10,000”
Enemies: According to Mrs. Bailey (1928) this raven has some friends and some enemies among the agriculturalists in New Mexico. One man stated that every raven was worth a dollar to him, as without the ravens it would be impossible to raise a crop of alfalfa seed, for they are the only control they have for the “conchuela,” an insect of the stink-bug family; any one of his hands found shooting a raven was fired then and there. In another place the ravens were reported as saving the hay crop by feeding on the alfalfa caterpillar. Still another man was down on the ravens because during the melon season they destroyed $25 worth of cantaloupes and truck crops a day. The chances are that after balancing all the evidence it will be found that the ravens do more good than harm and should not be molested, except in a few special cases. Vernon Bailey (1903) writes:
Out in one of the driest, hottest valleys of the Great Bend country of western Texas a pair of big Mexican ravens came beating over the valley ahead of our outfit one day, when they were suddenly attacked by two pair of the smaller, quicker, white-necked ravens. The attack was vigorous, not to say vicious, with quick repeated blows and pecks till the feathers flew. From start to finish the big birds sought only to escape, but this seemed impossible. They pounded the air in vain effort to out-fly their tormentors, dove to the ground hut were forced to take wing again, circled and beat and tacked to no purpose, and finally began mounting steadily i~ big circles, taking their punishment as they went. the smaller birds keeping above and beating down on them in succession till all were specks in the sky, and finally lost to view. Such a drubbing I never saw a smaller bird inflict on a larger, before or since, and it was probably well deserved. The nests of the white-necked ravens are unprotected from above and eggs are said to be a delicacy to any raven.
Fall: After the young birds are strong on the wing, these ravens gather in immense flocks and travel about over the country, visiting the most likely feeding places and gradually drifting southward. F. C. Willard (1912) witnessed a heavy migration early in November in Cochise County, Ariz.; this happened just before a very severe winter, during which these ravens were entirely absent from that section. They migrated in one immense flock, which “extended over a distance of nearly three miles along the foot hills of the Dragoon Mountains near Gleason in this county. There did not seem to be any regular flight, but a sort of general slow movement to the south. The birds were present in many thousands and it was two days before the last stragglers disappeared”
Winter: In its winter resorts in Texas the white-necked ravens are highly gregarious. Mr. Brandt (1940) writes:
When the winds of winter roar down from the north this black clan then gathers into large communities and moves about the countryside in active, restless flocks, often numbering thousands of individuals. They may then be seen feeding forward on the ground in the great open pastures, the rear birds eddying over those ahead and alighting, imparting to the flock the effect of rolling along. They then visit the cities and villages of the region, making themselves perfectly at home, and are less afraid of man than ever. The encroachment of civilization seems to have little or no effect on their numbers and they may be found perched in the trees and on the roofs of the houses, and feeding in the streets and yards. * * * To tour over these hare high prairies in January would be bleak indeed were it not for the
Range: Southwestern United States and northern Mexico; nonmgratory.
The range of the white-necked raven extends north to southern Arizona (Baboquivari Mountains, Papago Indian Reservation, and Oracle) ; New Mexico (Cactus Flat, Cutter, and Fort Summer) ; rarely east-central Colorado (Hugo) ; and Oklahoma (Arnett). East to western Oklahoma (Arnett); central Texas (Haskell, Albany, probably Turtle Creek, and probably Brownsville); and Tamaulipas (Charco Escondido). South to northern Tamaulipas (Charco Escondido); Nuevo Le6n (Monterrey); Coahuila (Saltillo); Chihuahua (probably near Chihuahua City and San Pedro); and southern Sonora (Hermosillo). West to central Sonora (Hermosillo and Magdalena); and southeastern Arizona (Fort Huachuca and the Baboquivari Mountains). The range is said to extend south to the Mexican state of Guanajuato, but the supporting evidence is not known. Formerly the species was common along the foothills in eastern Colorado north to the Wyoming line.
Casual records: It is probable that white-necked ravens formerly were not uncommon in western Kansas and Nebraska. In the latter State one was recorded from the Republican River region in April 1877, and it was noted near Sidney sometime prior to 1904. Several were noted at Wallace, Kans., October 12-16, 1833, and one was taken at Ellinwood on November 8, 1934. Recorded occurrences in California and Montana are not considered properly authenticated.
Egg dates: Arizona: 94 records, May 6 to June 27; 48 records, June 6 to 17, indicating the height of the season.
Texas: 58 records, March 15 to June 16; 30 records, May 12 to 20.