Birds of the Bible – Raven III

Northern Raven (Corvus corax) by Ray

Northern Raven (Corvus corax) by Ray

It has been several years since the Raven was featured in the Birds of the Bible. Let’s review the Raven’s part in the Scripture and see if we can add more details about this fantastic bird and his family members.

Ravens are mentioned eleven times in the Bible:

Then he sent out a raven, which kept going to and fro until the waters had dried up from the earth. (Genesis 8:7)
every raven after its kind, (Leviticus 11:15)
every raven after its kind; (Deuteronomy 14:14)
You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 1Kings 17:4)
And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. (1Kings 17:6)
Who provides food for the raven, When its young ones cry to God, And wander about for lack of food? (Job 38:41)
He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry. (Psalms 147:9)
The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures. (Proverbs 30:17)
His head is like the finest gold; His locks are wavy, And black as a raven. (Song of Solomon 5:11)
But the pelican and the porcupine shall possess it, Also the owl and the raven shall dwell in it. And He shall stretch out over it The line of confusion and the stones of emptiness. (Isaiah 34:11)
Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! (Luke 12:24)

As you can see, the Raven is one of the more mentioned birds in God’s Word, therefore it deserves to be studied again. The  Corvidae – Crows, Jays, Ravens Family is where you will find the Raven and their kind, such as Ravens, Crows, Jackdaw, Magpies, Jays, Magpie-Jays and Ground-Jays, Treepies, Choughs and Nutcrackers. At present, there are 130 species in the family. The Raven is one of several larger-bodied members of the genus Corvus—but in Europe and North America the Northern (Common) Raven is normally implied. They have black plumage and large beaks. They are considered the most intelligent of the birds, and among the most intelligent of all animals. It appears that the Lord used the intelligence He created in the Raven to help find the food that was needed to feed Elijah, the prophet, and also to help Noah discern when the waters had dried up.

And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.” Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the LORD, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. (1 Kings 17:1-6 NKJV)

Today there are thirteen (11) Ravens plus several subspecies. (IOC 3.4) There are also two extinct; the Chatham and New Zealand Ravens.

Forest Raven (Corvus tasmanicus)
Little Raven (Corvus mellori)
Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides)
Pied Crow (Corvus albus)
Brown-necked Raven (Corvus ruficollis)
Somali Crow (Corvus edithae)
Northern Raven (Corvus corax)
Chihuahuan Raven (Corvus cryptoleucus)
Fan-tailed Raven (Corvus rhipidurus)
White-necked Raven (Corvus albicollis)
Thick-billed Raven (Corvus crassirostris)

Chihuahuan Raven (Corvus cryptoleucus) ©WikiC

Chihuahuan Raven (Corvus cryptoleucus) ©WikiC

The Northern (Common) Raven, which is North America’s main Raven, began in the Old World and crossed the Bering land bridge into North America. Recent genetic studies, which examined the DNA of Northern Ravens from across the world, have determined that the birds fall into at least two clades: a California clade, found only in the southwestern United States, and a Holarctic clade, found across the rest of the northern hemisphere. Birds from both clades look alike, but the groups are genetically distinct and began to diverge.

The findings indicate that based on mitochondrial DNA, Northern Ravens from the rest of the United States are more closely related to those in Europe and Asia than to those in the California clade, and that Northern Ravens in the California clade are more closely related to the Chihuahuan Raven (C. cryptoleucus) than to those in the Holarctic clade. Ravens in the Holarctic clade are more closely related to the Pied Crow (C. albus) than they are to the California clade. Thus, the Northern Raven species as traditionally delimited is considered to be paraphyletic.

One explanation for these surprising genetic findings is that Northern Ravens settled in California and became separated from their relatives in Europe and Asia during an ice age. A group from the California clade became into a new species, the Chihuahuan Raven. Other members of the Holarctic clade arrived later in a separate migration from Asia.

A recent study of raven mitochondrial DNA showed that the isolated population from the Canary Islands is distinct from other populations. The study did not include any individuals from the North African population, and its position is therefore unclear, though its morphology is very close to the population of the Canaries (to the extent that the two are often considered part of a single subspecies). (Wikipedia with editing)

Thick-billed Raven (Corvus crassirostris) ©WikiC

Thick-billed Raven (Corvus crassirostris) ©WikiC

Wikipedia and others break the Ravens into five groups along with their allies in the True Crows division.

  • Australian and Melanesian Species – Australian Raven, Little Raven, Forest Raven
  • Eurasian and North African Species – Fan-tailed Raven, Brown-necked Raven
  • Holarctic Species – Northern (Common) and Pied Ravens
  • North and Central American Species – Chihuahuan Raven, Western Raven
  • Tropical African Species – White-necked Raven, Thick-billed Raven, Somali Crow (Dwarf Raven)
Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides) by Ian

Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides) by Ian

Other articles about the Raven: