I am beyond, and I mean beyond flattered and excited that Audubon California featured my blog on their FaceBook page (THANK YOU!). With such an influx of new viewers, it made me realize a brief introduction to corvids might be in order, for general knowledge. Some of you may already know this information, but I think it’s worthwhile putting out there for people just getting interested in corvids, and birds in general.
Edit: I don’t follow Twitter, so I just got word that apparently my blog has also been getting tweeted around there. WOW! THANK YOU EVERYONE!!!!
So just what are Corvids?
Corvids are a group of birds, specifically birds found in the family Corvidae, which is a subgroup of the much larger group of perching/songbirds (Passerines). Members of the corvidae include crows, ravens, magpies, jays, treepies, choughs, nutcrackers, the piapiac, and the Stresemann’s bushcrow. This means that all of these birds share a common corvid ancestor that radiated into ~23 genera containing ~126 species originating in the Australasian region of the world (now found everywhere except Antarctica). This means this blog has a lot of species to draw from and talk about. Of course, the most charismatic and well-known of the corvids are the crows (which includes the ravens, rook, and jackdaws), as well as jays and magpies. I hope to touch on at least some of the lesser-known corvids and convince you that they too are interesting!
Let’s take a moment to get something clear about magpies. Not all birds with the word “magpie” in the name are corvids. You have magpie geese, magpie shrikes, and, of course, the Australian magpie, none of which are corvids! I can’t tell you how many times I find articles about corvids that feature an Australian magpie or a currawong (or any kind of Cracticid) photograph to accompany. However, you now know that they are not corvids! Go forth and correct your friends and family! BE that guy/gal! 😉
Why do you care about them so much? Why should I care about them?
Personally, I find them endlessly fascinating. Corvids have such rich social structure, behavior, and ecology, and many members have shown feats of intelligence that rivals, and sometimes exceeds, that of many primates (including chimpanzees!). How’s that for bird-brained? I also find them aesthetically beautiful. You may wonder what’s so beautiful about big black birds, but their form is so elegant and many of the corvids are actually quite colorful! The oriental magpies and the new world jays have an astonishing array of colors, interesting crests, and some have extravagantly long tails. However, my heart truly does belong to those “big, black birds”…so I have to admit that this blog will likely be biased toward them. (I have spent the past six years of my life studying a population of wild American crows [Corvus brachyrhynchos] and every passing day they just endear themselves to me more and more.)
You should probably care because corvids play interesting roles in the ecology of the natural world and, like any other species, warrant study and investigation to understand them further. Closer to home, you should probably care because you likely have corvids in your backyard, neighborhood, park, city, etc. Many corvids have adapted to the challenges of human-dominated environments and thrived. Because of their ability to take advantage of us, corvids are featured porminently in our myth, folklore, and are deeply embedded in much of our past and current culture. These are birds that made our ancestors sit up and take notice (mostly by stealing our food and being a general nuisance of themselves), and I think it’s just as important to notice them today. The secret lives of these birds are endlessly fascinating and will likely surprise you!
So, I hope you enjoy this blog and learn something about my favorite group of birds. I hope they become your favorite group too!
Finally, here is a photo of a posture crows take on when they are observing humans…because I really like pictures.