7 things you never knew about the raven

Discover fascinating facts about the raven. 

Illustration by Mike Langman
Illustration by Mike Langman

1 Forces of darkness

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Ravens are the most widely distributed of all corvids, being found throughout the northern hemisphere. They are also amongst the heaviest and longest-lived (more than 20 years) of all passerine birds.

2 Black marks

Black plumage and a taste for carrion make ravens obvious symbols of ill-omen and death. But in Norse mythology, a pair of ravens named Huginn and Muninn travel the world to bring information to the god Odin.

3 Dark history

The legend that the Tower of London will fall should its famous resident ravens desert is probably a romantic Victorian invention. The first record of ravens at the Tower dates back to 1895.

4 Black magic

The sinister appearance of ravens is in stark contrast to their playful and acrobatic courtship flights, which even include spells spent flying upside-down.

5 Cliff Hangers

An old Scottish name for this cliff-nesting species – Corby – still echoes in the names of rocky outcrops in northern Britain, such as Corbie’s Craig in Edinburgh and Corby’s crag in Northumberland.

6 Black market

Non-breeding ravens assemble at communal roosts, where they share information about the whereabouts of food, with knowledgable birds leading the way to animal carcasses in the morning.

7 Jet propulsion

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In the Old Testament Book of Genesis, a raven was the first animal to be released by Noah from the Ark. The dove was only the second.