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Ravens and Crows at Kharkov Zoo

Sure, Kharkov Zoo is a territory where exotic animals are kept. Also it is a nook of live nature inhabited by wild animals of local fauna. If you look around closely, you might see lots of interesting things.

This year ravens have made a nest in the Zoo. "So what", one may think. "These ravens can be seen everywhere in the city". But the matter is that crows are often taken for ravens by mistake. Raven and crow are different species of Corvidae. The family of Corvidae consists of many species, plenty of them inhabit cities.

In the city centre one can see gray crows, rooks, jackdaws, jay birds and magpies.

In winter rooks (Сorvus frugilegus) are most numerous. They come from Northern lands to spend winter here. Often they form large groups. They are best visible at dusk when they gather around in "clubs" and fly to their chosen places to spend night. One can see huge flocks of rooks flurrying over the city. In spring they leave for North, "local rooks" supercede them. They are less in number and less conspicuous.

Грач (Сorvus frugilegus)

Грач (Сorvus frugilegus)

Voices of rookery

Gray crow (Corvus cornix) is similar to rook but it can be unmistakingly recognised by its feather colouring. It is gray and black. Black crows also exist, but they do not inhabit Kharkov city. Gray crows are quite common in all seasons. 

Серая ворόна (Corvus cornix)

Gray Crow (Corvus cornix)

Jackdaws (Corvus monendula) are smaller than rooks and crows, their beaks are shorter. Their voices sound differently. They can be often heard in the central part of the Zoo as they have got a large coliony there. In spring they often land on backs of camels, Przewalsky Horses, bisons etc. They collect  old hairs in order to build nests.

Галка (Corvus monendula)

Галка (Corvus monendula)

Jay birds and magpies can be easily recognised. Magpie (Pica pica) has a long tail and bright white-and-black plumage. Buff-coloured Jay bird (Garrulus glandarius) looks quite different from other Corvidae of local fauna. These birds are more individualistic. although they sometimes gather in flocks but they can't be compared to crow or rook groups. They are often seen alone or is small groups.

Сорока (Pica pica)

Magpie (Pica pica)

Бежевая сойка (Garrulus glandarius)

Jay Bird (Garrulus glandarius)

What about ravens (Corvus corax)?  These birds are rare in cities. They prefer lonely places and inhabit forest zones where they are less disturbed. Judging from photo, one can sy that a raven looks pretty like a rook. But if you look at a live bird, everything becomes clear. A raven is much bigger than a rook or a crow. Its wing spread can reach up to 1.5 metre. It equals human arms spread. Ravens do not gather in flocks, they live in pairs.

Ворон (Corvus corax)

Raven (Corvus corax)

Ravens have been kept for more than 100 years in Kharkov Zoo. At present their enclosures are situated near the Birds' House and near Young Biologists' House. Sometimes they divert visitors with whistling or human voice imitation (Corvidae are great masters of voice imitation, same as parrots). Free ranging Corvidae is an unusual sight for visitors. 

Once a raven left the House of Young Biologists where he had been previously kept. But he did not leave the Zoo. He found a life mate and they decided to stay in the Zoo territory. There are wonderful great pines close to the House of Young Biologists. The pair built a nest in one of them. The other pine is their overseeing place. Right now they are raising their young. They are almost as big as their parents but they are still quite dependant on them.

Гнездо воронов на сосне

We do not recommend to contact ravens - they may peck quite strong. You'd better observe them in their environment. Come to the Zoo and see for yourself!