Common Ravens have, it seems, finally nested in Manhattan, the densest metropolitan area in the nation. The photo above depicts three fledglings I encountered on the morning of March 31, 2015. But let’s back up for a minute.

Over the last five or six years, Common Ravens have been sighted with increasing frequency in New York City, part of a resurgence throughout the Northeast after more than a century of regional extirpation. In 2010, Common Ravens nested in Queens. They’ve also recently nested in the Bronx and nearby in New Jersey.

In Manhattan, ravens were seen sporadically beginning in 2010. On March 16, 2014, I saw and heard a raven flying overhead in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Three days later, I saw two birds about mile south in the West Village. Other birders started reporting them later in March too, and we saw them through the year. The New York Times wrote about the city’s new residents, interviewing several local observers and experts. We were never able to confirm nesting, though some observers suspected it.

We saw ravens in southern Manhattan through the winter and spring of 2015 (I even saw one with a bagel, confirming that they are right at home here in New York). The birds stuck around through April and May; I saw one carrying food in flight one morning in May, and we kept wondering whether and where they were nesting.

Then, about 10 a.m. on May 31 through the open window of my apartment, I heard a wild, high-pitched shriek (it sounded a lot like this). And soon, I spotted three Common Raven fledglings atop a large building on 23rd Street. When a parent arrived, the fledglings went nuts.

Common Ravens (Corvus corax) by David J. Ringer

Three fledgling Common Ravens beg frantically as a parent flies in.

Common Ravens (Corvus corax) by David J. Ringer

Feed me!

I tweeted the good news and watched the birds on and off for the next couple of hours as the fledglings goofed off, tried out their wings, and mobbed their worn-looking parents.

Common Ravens (Corvus corax) by David J. Ringer

Two fledglings charge an arriving parent.

I noticed that one of the fledglings had significant feather damage, presumably caused by fault bars. I wonder whether this had something to do with asynchronous hatching and lack of food for one of the younger birds, or what else might have caused this damage to one bird’s feathers but not the other two.

Common Ravens (Corvus corax) by David J. Ringer

The family has continued hanging around Chelsea since, and it’s a lot of fun watching (and hearing!) them. As far as I know, no one has discovered the birds’ actual nest. But based on the adults’ location and behavior through the spring, and now the observations of the fledglings in a few blocks of west Chelsea, it seems that Common Ravens have nested successfully in Manhattan in 2015.

I think that’s something to celebrate.

Written by David
David J. Ringer is exploring the world one bird at a time. His fascination with birds and nature began at the age of four or five, and he now works full time in conservation. He is a writer and communicator whose day jobs have taken him to six continents and more than 25 countries, including Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Kenya, and Cameroon. Follow him on Twitter at @RealDJRinger.