It’s not every day that one has a discussion about a spate of recent Common Raven Corvus corax sightings in one’s home borough. It is even less common for such a conversation to lead to one of the participants claiming that not only are ravens common in his neighborhood but that they even nested there last year. But that is the conversation I found myself in on Monday night at the New York City Butterfly Club meeting; it was a naturalist named Johnny Lawrenson who claimed the ravens were nesting near his house. He gave exact directions and I decided I would check the location the next day. I didn’t really have much hope of the birds being ravens, after all, North America’s largest corvid has never been recorded nesting anywhere in New York City or Long Island.
Tuesday was a bright and sunny day and I convinced Daisy that the best thing to do in the afternoon would be to take Desi for a walk to the purported nest site. I left my camera home because I doubted there would be anything worth taking pictures of but I did bring my binoculars, you know, just in case. It was a gorgeous day for a walk and we enjoyed our stroll in the sunshine. We arrived at the given location and I had just leaned over the stroller to adjust Desi’s hat when Daisy said, “That’s a raven!”
Sure enough, the large black bird flying over was a raven, and, as if to confirm its identity, it uttered some deep, guttural croaks, a sound that crows never make. A second raven then flew to the nest and landed and stayed put as if it were incubating. Holy cow, a raven’s nest in Queens! And my camera was home!
No worries. Daisy let me out of the house again this morning and, after a detour to Forest Park to fill the feeders I headed back to the nest site where a raven was again on the nest.
But wait, you say, that could be any kind of black bird. How do we know it is not a crow? Well, first off, don’t you trust me? Of course not, and you have every right to be skeptical. After all, an extraordinary claim, like a raven’s nest in Queens, requires extraordinary evidence. And, just as I was taking my camera off of my scope to get some wide shots, the second raven flew in making a croaking noise unlike any I had ever heard a raven make before. Before it even landed the bird on the nest took off and the second raven landed next to the nest.
That image is cropped in an attempt to keep the location of the nest site relatively hidden. And, of course, I quickly put the camera back on the scope to get better shots of the bird, just to remove any possible doubts as to what species is on the nest.
The bird did some arranging with its beak, almost as if it was maybe turning over eggs (?) but quickly settled in and sat. It did not leave the spot for the fifteen minutes I stayed and watched.
I can’t wait to see if the nesting is successful: be sure to check back here for updates!
That’s exciting! I wonder if Ravens have bred anywhere else in New York City.
That’s a nice Life Bird for Desi!
This story illustrates how important it is to talk to EVERYONE about birds. You never know who has seen what. Three cheers for Urban Wild Life. And, another three cheers for Queens!
This is awesome.
One of my favorite birds. Hope you Queens peeps take care of them.
Cool. It is all part of my favourite birds quest for world domination. Woe be to those who have scorned them, when they take over.
Yikes! And I moved out of The City last week…
@John: Nope, never.
@Donna: It would have been if he hadn’t slept through the whole thing!
@Carrie: I know, right?
@Matthew: We will do our best.
@Clare: So long is this is just the ravens acting alone and not part of some secret Canadian plot… 🙂
@OpposableChums: Hopefully they will stay and breed for many years to come.
Whilst birding in the Alps and coming across a flying Raven, I have noticed one amazing thing about these birds:
They characterize amazing landscape.
Seriously: whereever they roam, you can bet the land is filled with natural wonders. whenever you see a Raven, you know you’ve come to the right place.
Oh, possibly the most important bit of information almost went unnoticed:
“…when Daisy said, “That’s a raven!””
Daisy can tell a Raven from a Crow??!??
Does she realize she’s a birder?
Jochen, totally agree about Ravens and amazing landscapes. One of my favorite birding memories took place in SW Utah in a breathtakingly beautiful, little known place called Snow Canyon. As I was exploring a smaller canyon within, the only human being around, a deep guttaral sound started echoing and bouncing around the canyon. Raven, of course.
What a thrill. Ravens in the city. Incredible.
I am pretty sure that there is a raven’s nest outside my east village window. There is a tree and a nest and currently a big raven sitting in the tree. I am cameraless at the moment but if the bird is still there when I leave I will try and take a photo. I guess there are more ravens…
@Lee: If you do manage pictures please share them…
I love ravens! One time when I was a kid, my mom put a big, raw pork liver on the table in our apt’s balcony ( it was winter, really cold and she needed it do it for a minute as she was preparing dinner). A huge raven came (not crow!) and stole it! She/he was so big and so black and lustrous it looked almost blue! I never held the grudge…:)
Ravens are incredible birds! Thanks for sharing these pics…
My daughter and I just saw three ravens in the Auburbdale section of Flushing yesterday. There was no nest there – it looked like they were just flying by. They were so incredibly large that there was no way they were crows. We watched one sit in a tree for a while… it looked like a linebacker. then 2 more flew by and the tree sitter joined them. I was so upset that I left my phone home. a picture would have been great. Just this year we are starting to see birds we’ve never seen before. We have a Woodpecker nest in the neighbors tree, and I saw a second species of Woodpecker a few weeks ago. And of course the red tailed hawks are great.
Yesterday i saw what i believe was a raven in Astoria ditmars. He was huge. A woman was walking by and i pointrd it out to her and she gasped. When he flew he darkened the sky. He did not caw as crows always do. I am positve this was a raven
Just spotted a raven being mobbed by crows at the Casey st angel bus depot by citifield. I have pictures and a small video.
There are 2 ravens in Uniondale NY. They are often in the field at Turtle Hook Jr HS. I have a fear of birds and I had to look these up because of their size.
Through most of June and July 2019 I watched a group of ravens hanging out for a few hours every day on rooftops and water towers in the Lower East Side; Usually three to four of them, at least two of them juveniles (unmistakeable shriek/scream, and occasionally an adult croak, so some mix of adult and juvenile). Don’t know if they nested nearby, or if they were one of the established groups from Chelsea or Red Hook. Over August they’ve show up less often, and when they did they weren’t nearly as vocal. By late August they are rarely around. Hoping they’ll be back next year!
i just saw two ravens in suffolk county new york scared the heck out of me
I saw two ravens yesterday in North Flushing (just west of Auburndale). They looked huge, despite being so high up in a tall tree. One of them had something fleshy in its mouth and the other appeared to be trying to steal it. This a rather hospitable area for large birds because of the trees and there are definitely hawks but I had no idea there were ravens here. I’ve seen them in the western United States but never knew they could be in New York until now!
For the last two mornings I have seen two ravens on eastern Long Island. The first time, March 29, two ravens landed in my backyard trees. Both had some kind of animal in their mouths. One flew off, but stayed close, the other one hung out in a new by tree. This morning, while gardening I again saw one raven in evergreen trees in the front of my yard. There were many crows around the raven but left him alone. The size of these birds is amazing, I was stunned. I did take some pictures with a iPhone, not good quality but managed to take some photos. Amazing.
Can confirm Mels comment years later. The ravens are still at Turtle Hook jr school in Uniondale,NY. I think they nest on the water tower. Their croaking is much deeper than any crow, and very easy to hear that difference.
There was also a pair around the Franklin Square/ Valley Stream area a few summers ago for several consecutive summers. I will see if they return this summer.