The Common Raven (Corvus corax) is the world's largest songbird and one of nearly two-dozen species in its genus. They have a vast global distribution, and one of the keys to their success is a generalist diet and the intelligence and cunning to match. So what do Ravens eat?
Ravens are omnivores that mainly feed on carrion. They're both scavengers and predators, with an eye for opportunities and the ability to strategize and take advantage of other animals. They feed on garbage on the outskirts of suburbia, follow wolves in the wilderness, and even visit bird feeders.
Ravens are true generalists. They are best known for scavenging on carrion, but they will also hunt for themselves. These intelligent birds have learned to associate with large predators and humans to find food. They will follow plows and harvesters as they turn up insects and small animals in farmland, and they find rich pickings along roads and highways.
Ravens have many clever strategies for finding food, but they are also smart enough to save excess food for a rainy day. They may cache their food in moss, snow, leaves, or soil. However, their ability to exploit available food sources can make them a nuisance species in the agricultural and stock-rearing industry. Ravens also seriously impact the survival of some threatened bird and reptile species.
This article covers the diet of the Common Raven. Read along to learn all about the feeding habits of these impressive and intelligent corvids.
Ravens are omnivores, and eat a vast range of foods, due to their opportunistic and scavenger nature
Ravens have an extremely varied diet, including everything from seaweed to the eyes of newborn lambs. Let’s take a closer look at a typical Raven meal.
The Raven's favorite food is probably carrion. Animal carcasses provide a ready supply of protein-rich food without the energy expense and risk of hunting for themselves.
These birds are quick to capitalize on a free meal, although they have an interesting problem when tucking into an animal carcass.
Ravens struggle to feed on large animal carcasses unless the predator, hunter, or motor vehicle has broken the skin. That’s because they lack the strength and bill sharpness to open tough mammal hides.
Birds are an important part of the Common Raven diet. They feed on both live and dead birds and will prey on eggs, chicks, and adults. These large corvids may not have the speed and talons of expert bird hunters like the Peregrine Falcon, but they can catch live adult birds.
Common Ravens are known to feed on many species, including the following:
Raven perched on a branch eating a mouse
Ravens will eat just about any large and nutritious seeds, including the following:
Ravens eat a variety of insects and other invertebrates, including:
Ravens eat many types of fruits, depending on what is available. Examples include figs, cherries, cranberries, and prickly pear fruits. Ravens also feed on tree nuts and ground nuts like pistachios and peanuts.
Close up of a Common Raven eating rowan berries
Ravens demonstrate an amazing ability to find and exploit local food sources. Their foraging techniques and areas can change between the seasons as different food sources become available.
Ravens associate with humans by foraging at landfills, along highways, and in farmlands. They will steal food from other birds and animals and follow large predators in wilderness areas that supply a source of carrion. Continue reading to learn more about Raven foraging and feeding.
Ravens eat every day. They require a lot of energy to maintain their metabolism, particularly in cold northern environments. A 1970s study showed that Ravens need a little over 300 calories per day. That equates to nearly half a pound of chicken breast meat.
Ravens are not your typical backyard birds, but they do occasionally visit feeders. They prefer meat and suet, although they will also eat grains and fruits.
Ravens are only able to feed comfortably from large, platform-style bird feeders. They will also eat from the ground, a fence post, or the crook of a tree.
Ravens are diurnal birds, which means they are only active during the day. They begin foraging in the morning, particularly along highways where they must be quick to find roadkill from the previous night.
Raven foraging for food from a rotten tree stump in the woods
Ravens look for food by flying or walking. They follow large predators like cougars and wolves in wilderness areas to scavenge their kills. They can find food by smell, but vision is their primary sense. Sound is also important, and they listen for the calls of other Ravens, wolves, and even gunshots.
Continue reading to learn what Ravens eat at different times of the year.
Ravens are non-migratory, so they must adapt their diets to whatever food resources are available. They often rely on the following food sources during the winter months:
Reptiles and insects like grasshoppers are most abundant in the warmer months. These may be captured live or scavenged along roads. Spring and summer is also the time when nestlings and fledglings are common, and Ravens are notorious for raiding nests and preying on clumsy young birds.
Both male and female Ravens feed their chicks by regurgitating their own food and water directly from their throat pouch.
Ravens are mainly found feeding on carrion
Ravens are not the kind of bird most bird lovers can expect to see in their backyard, but they can be fed and attracted to bird feeders in some parts of the world. Continue reading to learn how to encourage these crow-like corvids.
Feeding wild Ravens is OK, but as with all wild birds, feeding should be limited and irregular to prevent dependence. Be mindful that Ravens are considered pests in some areas, so affected parties would probably discourage it. If you do feed wild birds, it is vital to keep the feeding area clean and hygienic to avoid spreading disease.
Ravens will eat a variety of food types. They show a preference for meaty foods like dried cat or dog food and suet, but they will also eat seeds, nuts, and fruit.
Do not feed Ravens heavily processed, moldy, or rotten/rancid foods.
Pair of Ravens perched on an old tree stump
Ravens drink fresh water only. They drink every day and will travel long distances to reach a source of fresh drinking water.
You can attract Ravens by putting out fatty, meaty foods like suet and dog or cat food.
Ravens are fascinating birds to have around. They get a bad rap for various reasons, so be aware that they are mischievous and will prey on other birds, their eggs, and nestlings. They can also be messy around garbage and damage food crops.
Raven drinking fresh water
Fish can be an important part of the Raven diet in some areas. They frequently scavenge dead fish like salmon, although they can catch live fish such as smelt in shallow water.
Ravens will eat bread when available. Many birds will eat bread, although it is not a very healthy meal in large quantities.
Ravens regularly feed on the corpses of many different species. In fact, these birds are often most abundant along busy highways where roadkill animals provide an easy meal each morning.
A pair of Ravens fighting over prey
Ravens rely heavily on scavenging, particularly during the northern winter when many food sources are hard to come by. They will follow predators like wolves to feed on the remains of their kills, but they also look for animals that have died of natural causes. Ravens also scavenge the afterbirth of large animals like cattle.
Ravens are omnivores which means they feed on both plant and animal matter. They may even eat more grain and plant material than meat in certain circumstances.
Many predatory birds eat frogs and toads, and Ravens are no exception. In fact, Ravens can catch and kill a large percentage of the toads in shallow water breeding sites.
Ravens will eat baby and roadkill squirrels and may even hunt healthy adults when the opportunity arises. However, Ravens struggle to eat squirrels because their skin is tough and difficult to remove.
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