Death Valley NP | Caw Vs. Croak

At the Furnace Creek Campground in Death Valley, CA, there was a conspiracy of ravens offering visitors the desert version of Reveille. This photograph shows the raven whose steady croaking on Christmas Morning woke up those of us who spent the night in tent-sites. I called this bird,”The Furnace Creek alarm clock.”


Death Valley | The Furnace Creek Alarm Clock aka The Constable

Edgar Allan Poe never went camping in Death Valley. If he had, his poem “The Raven,” would’ve featured a different sound in the repeated rhyming device, ‘nevermore.’ Thanks to an ice age two million years ago, black feathered ravens of California and the Western United States evolved to become more like the Chihuahuan Raven, than like the common raven of North America and Old World Europe.

West of the Rocky Mountains, ravens are large black feathered birds with heavy bill, glossy pointed neck feathers, and who resemble raptors while in flight. These ravens are common hardy birds that occupy some of the coldest and wildest habitats on the continent. It can be difficult to tell apart ravens from common American crows. One of the ways of figuring out which bird you are looking at is to listen to it. American crows produce “caw” sounds. Ravens, however, produce a throaty “croak.” The sound is unmistakably different.

Did you know? The common name for groups of American crows is to call them “a congress of crows,” or “a murder of crows.”   The common name for groups of ravens is to call them “a conspiracy of ravens,” “an unkindness of ravens,” or “a constable of ravens.”


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