Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ravenous for a Raven?

 Common Raven flying over the lighthouse at Cape May Point State Park. [Photo by
Tom Johnson.

October 1, 2014 brought Cape May its first Common Raven of the 21st century!  It was first spotted from the Hawkwatch platform around noon by the hawk counter, Tom Reed.  The raven circled around the state park for about 20 minutes, and made a second appearance later in the afternoon.

The most recent previous sighting of a Common Raven in Cape May was during the summer of 1997. Since then, incredible birds like Yellow-nosed Albatross, Ivory Gull, White-tailed Tropicbird, Black Swift, and two Whiskered Terns have made appearances in Cape May before another raven did.

Coincidentally, Common Raven was the featured bird on the Sibley calender for October 1.
[(c) copyright David Sibley.]

Historically, ravens were not uncommon in New Jersey, but numbers declined dramatically as humans settled the land.  By the early 1900s they were considered very rare. However, ravens are intelligent birds and are adapting to living with humans.  They have a diverse diet and can live in many different types of habitats.  They are now increasing and expanding their range back in to New Jersey.

Common Raven. [Photo by Tom Johnson.]
Ravens are larger than American Crows and often soar like hawks. They have a wedge-shaped tail, a large beak, and long, narrow wings.  Our Cape May raven is a juvenile, which can be determined by the uniform appearance of its feathers and the jagged look to the trailing edges of the wings.  Several people reported hearing the raven's unique call.

Common Raven is another bird to add to the list of rare sightings this season.  I can't wait to see what will be next!

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