Crows and Other Corvids are Really Smart Birds!

Crows and Other Corvids are Really Smart Birds!

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

FOREST RAVEN (Corvus tasmanicus): / David Irving photo credit
HOODED CROW (World Life Expectancy photo)

“Every raven after his kind”   (Leviticus 11:15)

Who provides for the raven his food? When his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of food.   (Job 38:41)

Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; they neither have storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them; how much more are ye better than birds?   (Luke 12:24)

[quoting from the HOLY BIBLE]

There is, as Moses noted, a “kind” (i.e., genetically related family) of birds that we call “corvids”, crow-like birds, including ravens.  [In the English Bible (KJV), these birds are always called “ravens”.] 

These black (or mostly black – see Song of Solomon 5:11) omnivores are known to “crow”, often calling out a harsh KAWWWW!   Also famous for their “ravenous”appetites and eating habits, it is no wonder that the English labeled many varieties of these corvid birds as “ravens”.

The HOODED CROW (Corvus cornix) lives and thrives in the Great North – including Sweden, Finland, and Russia.  This I learned firsthand, on July 6th of AD2006, while visiting a grassy park near the Vasa Museum of Stockholm, Sweden.  The next day (July 7th of AD2006), it was my privilege to see another Hooded Crow in a heavily treed park in Helsinki, Finland.  Again, two days later (i.e., the 9th of July, AD2006), while visiting Pushkin (near St. Petersburg, Russia), I saw a Hooded Crow, in one of the “garden” parks of Catherine’s Palace.  Obviously, Hooded Crows appreciate high-quality parks of northern Europe!

HOODED CROW (Warren Photographic photo credit)

The physical appearance of a Hooded Crow is, as one bird-book describes, “unmistakable”.

Unmistakable.  Head, wings and tail black, but body grey (can show pinkish cast in fresh plumage).

[Quoting Chris Kightley, Steve Madge, & Dave Nurney, POCKET GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF BRITAIN AND NORTH-WEST EUROPE (Yale University Press / British Trust for Ornithology, 1998), page 271.]

Like most large corvids, the Hood Crow is quite versatile in filling various habitats.

Wary, aggressive scavenger found in all habitats from city centre to tideline, forest to mountain top.  Generally seen in ones and twos, but the adage ‘crows alone, rooks in a flock’ unreliable; often accompanies other crows, and hundreds may gather at favoured feeding spots and roosts.  Watch for crow’s frequent nervy wing flicks whenever on ground or perched.  Calls varied.  Typically a loud, angry kraa, usually given in series of 2—6 calls.  Unlike Rook, pairs nest alone (usually in tree).

[Again quoting Kightley, et al., POCKET GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF BRITAIN AND NORTH-WEST EUROPE, page 271.]
CARRION CROW   (Ouiseaux-Birds photo)

Yet the HOODED CROW is not a genetically self-contained “species”, regardless of what taxonomists might wish about them.  They happily hybridize with other crows, especially the CARRION CROW [Corvus corone], whose international range the Hooded Crow overlaps.


CARRION AND HOODED CROWS.  The familiar crow.  Two distinct races occur … [In the]British Isles and western Europe, Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) is common everywhere except north and west Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man and Europe east of Denmark, where it is replaced by Hooded (Corvus cornix).  Where breeding ranges overlap hybrids are frequent [emphasis added by JJSJ].

[Again quoting Kightley et al., page 271.]

The Carrion-Hooded Crow hybrids are also noted within a larger discussion (i.e., pages 224-228) of Corvid family hybrids, in Eugene M. McCarthy, HANDBOOK OF AVIAN HYBRIDS OF THE WORLD (Oxford University Press, 2006), at page 227. 

CORVIDS (Jelmer Poelstra / Uppsala University image credit)

Dr. McCarthy, an avian geneticist, has accumulated and summarized genetic research on Carrion-Hooded hybrids, especially examples observed in Eurasia:

Because the Carrion Crow has a split range … with the Hooded Crow intervening … there are two long contact zones, one extending from N. Ireland, through N. Scotland, to N.W. Germany, then S to N Italy, and another stretching from the Gulf of Ob (N Russia) to the Aral Sea.  … Even in the center of the [overlap] zone, only 30% of [these corvid] birds are obviously intermediate.  Due to hybridization these [corvid] birds are now sometimes lumped, but Parkin et al. (2003) recommend against this treatment since the two have obvious differences in plumage, as well as in vocalizations and ecology, and because hybrids have lower reproductive success than either parental type.  Hybrid young are less viable, too, than young produced from unmixed mating (Saino and Villa 1992).  Genetic variability increases within the hybrid zone (as has been observed in many other types of crossings).  Occasional mixed pairs occur well outside [the overlap range] zones (e.g., Schlyter reports one from Sweden).

[Quoting Eugene M. McCarthy, HANDBOOK OF AVIAN HYBRIDS OF THE WORLD (Oxford Univ. Press, 2006), at page 227.]

 Dr. McCarthy, on pages 224-228, lists several other examples of documented corvid hybridizations, including: Corvus capellanus [Mesopotamian Crow] X Corvus corone [Carrion Crow];  Corvus cornix [Hooded Crow] X Pica pica [Black-billed Magpie];  Corvus albus  [Pied Crow] X Corvus albicollis [White-necked Raven];  Corvus albus  [Pied Crow] X Corvus ruficollis [Brown-necked Raven];  Corvus albus [Pied Crow] X Corvus splendens [House Crow];  Corvus brachyrhynchos [American Crow] X Corvus caurinus [Northwestern Crow];  Corvus corax [Common Raven] X Corvus brachyrhynchos [American Crow];  Corvus corax [Common Raven] X Corvus corone [Carrion Crow];  Corvus corax [Common Raven] X Corvus cryptoleucus [Chihuahuan Raven];  Corvus corax [Common Raven] X Corvus levaillantii [Jungle Crow];  Corvus corax [Common Raven] X Corvus macrorhynchos  [Large-billed Crow];  Corvus corax [Common Raven] X Corvus ruficollis [Brown-necked Raven];  Corvus corone [Carrion Crow] X Corvus macrorhynchos  [Large-billed Crow];   Corvus daururicus [Jackdaw, a/k/a “Coloeus dauuricus”] X Corvus monedula [Jackdaw, a/k/a “Coloeus mondela”];  Corvus levaillantii [Jungle Crow] X Corvus macrorhynchos  [Large-billed Crow];  Pica nuttalli [Yellow-billed Magpie] X Pica pica [Black-billed Magpie];  plus it looks like an occasional Rook [Corvus frugilegus] joins the “mixer”, etc.   Looks like a good mix or corvids! 

Avian hybrids, of course, often surprise and puzzle evolutionist taxonomists, due to their faulty assumptions and speculations about so-called “speciation” – as was illustrated, during AD2013, in the discovery of Norway’s “Redchat”  —  see “Whinchat, Redstart, & Redchat:  Debunking the ‘Speciation’ Myth Again”, posted at .

CORVID RANGES of the world (Wikipedia image credit)

Meanwhile, as the listed examples (of corvid hybridizations) above show, corvid hybrids are doing their part to “fill the earth”, including Hooded-Carrion Crows. 

Now that is are something to crow about!               ><> JJSJ   

AUSTRALIAN MAGPIE (Gymnorhina tibicen) swooping to attack / CSIROscope photo credit


Crows, as well as other corvid birds (i.e., members of the Crow-Raven family), fascinate children. They should amaze adults, too, yet often we are too busy to take time to ponder and appreciate the God-given traits of the creatures who share our world.  Why should these birds capture our attention? They are alive!

Unlike plants, which are like biological machines (having no self-consciousness), higher-order animals like mammals and birds are truly alive, often displaying what might be called personalities. Although qualitatively distinct from humans—who are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27)—animals have what Scripture calls a “soul” (the Biblical Hebrew noun is nephesh—see Genesis 1:20-21; 1:24; 2:19; 9:10; 9:12; 9:15-16 & Leviticus 11:46. )  This “soul” (nephesh)—is something more than the bird’s (or other animal’s) physical body. A bird’s nephesh-lifedeparts at death, yet its physical body remains. Thus, there is a difference between a bird’s immaterial life and its material body, just as we humans have physical bodies distinct from our own immaterial selves. The bird’s “soul” is revealed by how he or she intelligently thinks, communicates, learns, and makes decisions—including problem-solving choices.

Although many avian (and other animal) behaviors exhibit preprogrammed responses to outside world conditions, not all such behaviors are instinctive. Some such behaviors reveal that God chose to give these creatures real intelligence, real  cleverness—demonstrated by abilities to learn new ideas, to fit new situations, and to solve practical problems of daily living.

As [Benjamin] Beck tells us in his book Animal Tool Behavior, [a crow] was fed partly on dried mash, which its keepers were supposed to moisten. But sometimes (being merely human) they forgot. The crow, undaunted, would then pick up a small plastic cup that had been provided as a toy, dip it into a water trough, carry the filled cup across the room to the food, and empty the water onto the mash. “If the water was spilled accidently,” Beck writes, “the crow would return to the trough for a refill rather than proceed to the food pan with an empty cup.” The bird was not taught to do this. “The [problem-solving] behavior appeared spontaneously,” Beck reports

[Quoting from Candace Savage, Bird Brains: The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies, and Jays (San Francisco: Sierra Club, 1997), pages 2-4.]
Australian Magpie (Wikipedia photo)

For another example of a corvid bird—in this case a magpie—demonstrating problem-solving intelligence, consider how Australian magpies deal with the unforeseeable problem of a human-imposed GPS “backpack”, which hinders its avian wearer similar to the inconvenience of a human wearing an “ankle bracelet”: 

Here, we describe one such study trialling [i.e., trial-experimenting] a novel harness design for GPS tracking devices on Australian Magpies Gymnorhina tibicen. Despite previous testing demonstrating the strength and durability of the harness, devices were removed within minutes to hours of initial fitting. Notably, removal was observed to involve one bird snapping another bird’s harness at the only weak point, such that the tracker was released. 

[Quoting from Joel Crampton, Celine H. Frère, & Dominique A. Potvin, “Australian Magpies Gymnorhina tibicen Cooperate to Remove Tracking Devices”, Australian Field Ornithology, 39:7-11 (2022).]

Likewise, some corvid birds (such as scrub jays)—acting like helpful “first responders”—are known to rescue distressed “birds of [the same] feather”, when a predator is threatening one of their own kind.

What if a large predatory bird attacks a small bird (or its nest of hatchlings)? Oftentimes, in such situations, the imperiled bird’s alarm-cry is followed by a “mob” attack. In effect, a vigilante-like “posse” of small birds chase and peck the predator, so the predator quickly flees to avoid the group counter-attack.  This has often been observed in corvid birds—the family of crows—such as Eurasia’s Siberian jay.

Jays sometimes gang up on owls and hawks, their primary predators, in an activity called “mobbing.” Uppsala University research [in Sweden] on Siberian jays, slated to appear in the Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences, investigated the specifics of how jays communicate when mobbing predators. The study found that these birds have “over 25 different vocalisations” which combine to form “over a dozen different calls [while mobbing], some of which are specific for owls and other [sic] for hawks.”

[Quoting from Brian Thomas, “Jay Talking”, Creation Science Update (June 29, 2009), posted at — quoting from a Uppsala University press release, “Siberian Jays Use Complex Communication to Mob Predators”, dated June 8, 2009]

Many other examples of problem solving by resourceful animals could be given. Domesticated livestock, family pets, wildlife, and laboratory-tested animals come up with clever solutions to the challenges of daily living to secure food, water, air, shelter, rest, information, and reproductive success. But the resourcefulness of animals should not surprise us.

Proverbs informs us that God wisely installed wisdom into the minds of corvid birds, as well as many other animals—even small creatures like ants, conies, locusts, and lizards.  To literally translate what Proverbs 30:24 [chakâmîm mechukkâmîm] says about such animals, they are “wise from receiving [God’s] wisdom.”  Truly amazing display — of God’s creativity and love for life !       

   ><> JJSJ

father Australian Magpie (Corvus tibicen) feeding juvenile magpie (Wikipedia / Toby Hudson photo credit)

[P.S.: this blogpost updates and expands upon an earlier post on November 7th A.D.2018.]

Scripture Alphabet of Animals: The Raven

Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides) by Ian

Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides) by Ian

Scripture Alphabet of Animals: The Raven

By Harriet N. Cook (1814-1843)

The raven has always been very well known to man, and is mentioned almost at the beginning of the Bible. You remember that this was the first bird that Noah sent out of the ark to see whether the waters had begun to dry up; and that it did not go back to him again. I suppose it was very glad to be at liberty after it had been shut up more than a year; and as it lives upon the flesh of other animals, it probably found food enough from the bodies of those that had been drowned.

Chihuahuan Raven (Corvus cryptoleucus)Raven (Corvus corax) by Kent Nickell

Chihuahuan Raven (Corvus cryptoleucus) Raven (Corvus corax) by Kent Nickell

It is a large bird, considerably larger than the crow; and its feathers are very black, very glossy, and very beautiful. People in ancient times seem to have liked a black color, and were especially pleased with black hair; so we read in the Song of Solomon, where one who is beautiful is described, “His locks are bushy, and black as a raven.”

It is said that the raven always attacks the eye of an animal first; seeming to prefer that to every other part. This may explain one of the verses in Proverbs,

The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.

It has been the custom, in many countries, to hang those who have been guilty of great crimes on a tree or on a gallows in the open air; and there to leave the body for the birds to peck at and devour if they chose. I suppose this verse means that stubborn and disobedient children, or those who are not kind and respectful to their parents, must expect to come to some sad end; and they very often do so.

I have heard that the raven drives out its young ones very early from the nest, almost before they are able to seek their food. This may explain a verse in the Psalms,

The Lord giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry;

and another in Job,

Who provideth for the raven his food ? when his young ones cry unto God, wandering for lack of meat.

Our Savior speaks of this bird in the 12th chapter of Luke, “Consider the ravens; for they neither sow nor reap; they have neither store-house nor barn; and God feedeth them.” He was speaking to his disciples, and it was as much as to say,

If God takes care of the ravens, he will certainly take care of you; so you need not be anxious or afraid.

Brown-necked Raven of Israel

Brown-necked Raven, Israel ©WikiC

Have you read in the Bible how a good prophet’s life was once saved by ravens? The people who were living then were very wicked, and would have been glad to kill the prophet Elijah; so God told him to go into the wilderness and live there alone by the side of a small brook. Elijah went to the brook, and there was water enough for him to drink, of course, but no food to keep him from starving. You may be sure that God did not forget his servant; but you would hardly believe, if it was not in the Bible, that he would send the ravens to carry food to him. Yet so it was:

the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.

It is supposed that he was fed in this way for as much as a year. It was a long time to stay there by himself; but I do not think he was lonely or afraid, for he loved God, and felt sure that He was always near him, even in the wilderness.

(Blog formatted by Lee)


Harriet Newell Cook -Scripture Alphabet of Animals

Birds of the Bible


Corvidae Family – Crows, Jays, Ravens

Nave’s Topical Bible – Raven

Torrey’s Topical Textbook – Raven


Birds Are Wonderful: P, Q, and R !

BIRDS  ARE  WONDERFUL  . . .  P,  Q,  and  R !

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Jesus said: “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink . . . Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, . . . your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”   (Matthew 6:25-26)

For ushering in the year of our Lord 2020,  below follows the sixth advance installment of alphabet-illustrating birds of the world, as part of this new series (“Birds Are Wonderful  —  and Some Are a Little Weird*).  The letter P is illustrated by Pinyon Jay, Puffins, and Peafowl.  The letter Q  illustrated by Quail, Quetzal, and Queen Carola’s Parotia.  The letter L illustrated by Rhea, Raven, and Roadrunner.

“P” BIRDS:   Pinyon Jay, Puffins, and Peafowl.



“Q” BIRDS:  Quail, Quetzal, and Queen Carola’s Parotia.


“R” BIRDS:  Rhea, Raven, and Roadrunner.


Birds are truly wonderful — and some, like the Peacock and Quetzal, are exquisitely beautiful, while others, like the rattlesnake-killing Roadrunner, are fascinatingly unusual, if not also odd-looking!  (Stay tuned for more, D.v.)

* Quoting from “Birds Are Wonderful, and Some Are a Little Weird”, (c) AD2019 James J. S. Johnson   [used here by permission].



Tilly’s Pumpkin House – by Emma Foster

Tilly’s Pumpkin House

by Emma Foster

Tilly the raven normally lived in a tree, but as winter came closer, the weather felt colder, and Tilly knew she needed to find a warmer place to live.

Her tree was near a small pumpkin farm, and several pumpkins had been left behind, going unused for Halloween. Tilly observed the different kinds of pumpkins that were still in the field. Many of them looked old, with green and yellow splotches on them. One of the pumpkins, however, looked perfect.

The pumpkin was large and perfectly round. When Tilly pecked at it with her beak, she noticed that it was soft enough for her to make a little door in it. She pecked her way into the pumpkin and surveyed the inside.

For a while, Tilly pulled out the seeds and guts from the inside of the pumpkin, until she had enough room to sit comfortably. Tilly felt protected from the wind and cold. Eventually, she fell asleep.

Gathering Pumpkins ©

The next morning, Tilly woke up to her pumpkin house shaking. Someone had picked up her house and was taking it somewhere. Tilly peeked her head out of the door of her house. She noticed groups of people taking the old pumpkins and placing them to a pickup truck.

Pickup Truck With Pumpkins

Someone placed Tilly’s house in a pile beside other pumpkins. A second later, she rolled around and around and around as her house fell down a hill.

Splash! Tilly landed in the river. Fortunately, her house floated to the top, and the door she had made pointed up to the sky. Tilly carefully climbed out and flew back to land, sad that her house was floating away.

Northern Raven (Corvus corax) by Ray

Northern Raven (Corvus corax) by Ray

Snow started to fall to the ground. Tilly needed to come up with another plan. She decided to leave the pumpkin field and find somewhere else to live. Flying through the air as the snow fell, Tilly searched and found another pumpkin field. She searched for the next perfect pumpkin she could use. One of the pumpkins was soft and round just like the other one, and by the time she settled down inside, night had fallen and Tilly fell asleep instantly.

The next morning, Tilly woke up to something knocking against her new house. A deer she didn’t recognize was sniffing at her pumpkin and then took a giant chunk out of the top. Tilly looked up at the deer and the deer stared back at her. She flew out of her house, forced to watch the deer eat the rest of her pumpkin.

Deer Looking at Tilly ©CC

Deer Looking at Tilly ©CC

The snow made everything colder until Tilly could barely fly. She flew into some woods, hoping to find a tree in which to get warm. Eventually, she found a tree with a small hole in it. Tilly flew inside only to discover a small owl in the hole in the tree.

The owl introduced herself as Milly the long-eared owl. Tilly offered to leave since this was Milly’s home, but Milly explained that she was only stopping there for a minute. She said that she had found a nest in a tree a few miles away that had belonged to a raven. She also explained that long-eared owls liked to live in nests that belonged to ravens.

“Milly” – Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) ©Flickr Slgurossom

Tilly grew excited, believing that the nest Milly was talking about was hers, which meant she had to explain the pumpkin houses she had had, and how she had ended up there. Milly offered to let Tilly keep the tree to stay warm. Tilly also said that it was perfectly all right if Milly kept her nest.

All throughout the winter, Tilly stayed in the tree where she had met Milly, while Milly lived in Tilly’s nest next to the pumpkin field. When spring came around, Tilly and Milly remained friends, and Tilly even showed Milly how to make her own pumpkin house, though she didn’t recommend living there.


Linda Marcille carved the Raven in pumpkin.

“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.” (Luke 10:38 KJV)

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Philippians 4:6 KJV)

What a great story from Emma. It is enjoyable to watch her talent developing. Also, it is good to see Tilly and Milly being so hospitable. This is only fiction, but how did the animals interact with each other before the fall and the curse affected all of nature? Maybe this story is just a glimpse of how they got along so well.

Emma’s Stories

Good News

The Raven and the Old Woman’s Garden – by Emma Foster

Northern Raven (Corvus corax) by Ray

The Raven and the Old Woman’s Garden by Emma Foster

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NKJV)

Once there was a small raven that lived in a tree that stood in the middle of a large garden a woman had planted years ago. The woman had grown old now and spent most of the time in her small brick house. She did come out to devoutly water her plants so that her garden would be kept beautiful, but it was very difficult for her to pull out the weeds in the flower beds.

The raven would often watch the old woman from her nest in the tree as she watered her flowers. The raven enjoyed the garden the old woman had planted because so many of the flowers were different colors. During the day the raven would often fly through the flowers, and every day it seemed that there was a new and different flower for her to look at.

PAS-Corv Raven ©Pixabay

But one day the old woman didn’t come out of her house. The raven waited for her to come and water her flowers, but the old woman had become ill and couldn’t get out of her bed. Eventually, the raven saw from her nest a bright red and white vehicle with flashing lights come up the driveway. The raven watched some people in uniforms come into the house and take the old woman out on a bed and drive away.

A few days went by and the old woman did not come home. The raven began to worry because there was no one to water the flowers to keep the old woman’s garden looking beautiful. Several weeds had sprung up in the flower beds as well.

The raven suddenly had the idea to begin pulling out some of the weeds while the old woman was gone. She started in the flower bed closest to her nest and began pulling weeds out from the beds. While she was pulling out some of the weeds, the raven found a few seeds that the old woman hadn’t planted yet. The raven promptly decided to dig up a small place off to the side with her beak in order to plant them.

PAS-Corv Raven ©Pixabay

The raven continued to pull out more weeds for the rest of the day. Fortunately, because it wasn’t terribly hot outside the work was a little easier. Toward the end of the day, rain began to fall. The raven quickly retreated to her nest and watched from the protection of the tree as the rain watered the flowers to keep them from dying.

The rain stopped the next morning but continued occurring every now and then for the next couple of days. One morning the raven woke to see tiny buds had appeared out of the ground where she had planted the seeds. This made the raven very happy, but she became even happier when a car drove up into the driveway. The old woman had come back from the hospital but had to be taken into her house on a bed. The raven stayed in her nest, hoping that the old woman would be able to see the new flowers and her well-kept garden through her bedroom window.

Fortunately, the old woman was able to see her garden very clearly, but she was no longer able to come outside. The raven decided she would keep pulling out the weeds for her. It continued to rain nearly every day, which was good because the flowers had to be watered. But one day another loud flashing vehicle came back up to the house and took the old woman away, and the raven knew that she wasn’t coming back.

PAS-Corv Raven ©Pixabay

Eventually, several people came to the house and moved out all of the old woman’s things leaving the house bare and empty. To honor the old woman the raven kept pulling out weeds, hoping that she could keep the old woman’s garden as long as possible. But eventually it stopped raining and the flowers began to wilt. The raven began to fear that all of the old woman’s flowers would eventually die, until one day the raven woke up in her nest to see a family moving into the old woman’s house. The wife, who moved into the house with her husband and children, decided that she should continue tending the garden, which made the raven very happy. After a few weeks the garden and was healthy and beautiful again, and the flowers the raven had planted grew incredible large and tall.

My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.” (Psalms 121:2 NKJV)

Lee’s Addition:

Another very entertaining and delightful story from Emma. Emma picks the birds in her tales and I supply the photos and scriptures. She may not be aware that the Ravens are very intelligent and can do some might surprising tasks. So, maybe this story is not really so “far-fetched”!

Enjoy her other tales at Emma’s Stories.

Lee’s Six Word Saturday – 4/2/16


Raven Feeding ©Flickr Josh More



Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? (Luke 12:24 NKJV)

Raven Feeding ©Flickr Josh More


More Daily Devotionals


Northern Raven and Peregrine Falcon: Two Birds Supporting the Manx Coat of Arms

Northern Raven and Peregrine Falcon:

Two Birds Supporting the Manx Coat of Arms

 James J. S. Johnson

He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.  (Psalm 147:9)

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.  (1st Peter 2:11)

Raven and Peregrine Falcon in flight ©kitundu.wordpress

The Isle of Man has a strange and providential history, a mix of ravenous opportunists and hardy pilgrims, amidst the furious storms of the Irish Sea, weathering conflicts of Romans, Celts, and Nordic Vikings – all but concealing God’s clever and caring hand as He reaches the world with the Word of His Son.

Interestingly, the Isle of Man connects two aggressive birds together, the Peregrine Falcon and the Raven (often.   [See illustration below, by G. E. Lodge & H. Grönvold, in H. Eliot Howard’s TERRITORY IN BIRD LIFE (E. P. Dutton & Company, 1920), page 216.]

Territory in Bird Life - by G E Lodge - H Gronvold

Soon we shall see how that is. Let us begin by considering the Common Raven (a/k/a Northern Raven), which may be “common” but nonetheless is an amazing bird, worldwide.

The black Raven (Corvus corax – often called the “Common Raven” or “Northern Raven“, to distinguish it from other very similar, yet recognizably variant, ravens, such as the Thick-billed Raven, Chihuahuan Raven, Fan-tailed Raven, Brown-necked Raven, Chough, and Jackdaw – regarding which, see A Diet of Jackdaws and Ravens, like our English word “ravenous” (see Isaiah 46:11; Ezekiel 39:4), denotes aggressive hunger and resourceful hunting, reminding us of rough-and-ready opportunists, a fitting emblem displayed on some of the Viking ship sails (and pennant banners) of old.

Peregrine Falcon On The Edge by Ray

What of the grey-hued Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)?  Likewise, the word “peregrine” refers to a land-wanderer, a sojourner, a stranger-passing-through, an especially fitting label for Christians who daily experience the rough-and-tumble challenges of “pilgrim” life (Genesis 47:9; Exodus 6:4), on this presently fallen Earth, as we await our ultimate destiny that befits our heavenly citizenship (Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:13).  Before finishing that thought, however, let us consider these two stalwart birds, the Raven and the Peregrine Falcon – and their connection to the ISLE OF MAN, a quasi-autonomous territory of the British Commonwealth.

In particular, behold the official Manx Coat of Arms – notice the two birds supporting the Manx Coast of Arms, a stark Raven and an equally stern Peregrine Falcon.  Why do these birds so aptly match the Isle of Man?

Manx Coat of Arms of the Isle of Man ©WikiC

Manx Coat of Arms of the Isle of Man ©WikiC

Before appreciating some details about these two noble birds, the Raven and the Peregrine Falcon, it might help to gain a glimpse of the turbulent times that the Isle of Man has seen, centuries ago, when Vikings sailed the Irish Sea (and many seas beyond!) – and used the Isle of man as a staging ground for their naval adventures.

One illustration involves the tourney on the high seas, in AD1156, between a Norse-Manx Viking king, named Somerled (an ancestor of Dr. Bill Cooper), and his arch-foe, Godred.

“Godred … [alarmed that Somerled’s son was installed as ruler of the Isle of Man] hurriedly got ready a fleet and sailed north against the forces of Somerled. It was high time for Somerled to do something about Godred [so Somerled] collected a large fleet of eighty [80!] longships and sailed out to confront his enemy. The story that follows incites our admiration for the impressive seamanship of both kings, and the seaworthiness of their ships. The battle took place at night, in the dead of winter, in the open ocean somewhere off the coasts of Islay, on the 5-6 of January 1156. How they managed to manoeuvre under oars (no sails were used during battle), in darkness, in wild winter seas, without most of their ships colliding or foundering, was a miracle. It must have been a titanic struggle and the Chronicle of Man describes the terrible slaughter which ensued. By dawn both sides were exhausted, neither having won, so they agreed to make peace and divided up the sea kingdom between them, in a rather awkward division. Godred retained [the Isle of] Man and the islands to the north of the Ardnamurchan peninsula [of Scotland], while Somerled kept all the islands to the south including Kintyre, which was still class as an island [it being largely coastland].” (Quoting from Kathleen MacPhee’s Somerled, Hammer of the Norse (Glascow: Neil Wilson Publishing, 2004), pages 80-82, as quoted within “DNA says Manx King, Somerled, the Celebrated Founding Father of Scottish Clans, had a “Norse” Patrilinear Ancestry !”, posted at Somerled Family History.

In short, Viking sea battles were not an adventure for the faint of heart.  But, one might wonder:  who cares today about such people nowadays?

In other words:  why would we care about some Viking king (of the Isle of Man), who lived and adventured some 800 or 900 years ago?  Has that Norse-Manx Viking’s life impacted your life or mine, at all, in any kind of meaningful way?

The answer, if you read or speak English, is both simple and surprising:  as a direct ancestor of the King James who sponsored the Holy Bible in English translation, King Somerled’s biogenetic footprint has impacted our world–to God’s glory and our benefit–in a permanent and indispensable way.

Consider the following descent from King Somerled and Queen Ragnhild. Then try to imagine the big-picture providence of God, interacting through space and time … producing uncountable effects from the resultant galaxies of Great Commission “destiny dominoes”, all around the world, especially from AD1066 to AD1611 and beyond.…

P1 Somerled & wife Ragnhild begat Angus Somerledsson (F1);

F1 Angus Somerledsson & wife Ragnhild of the Isles begat James (F2);

F2 James & wife (whose name is lost) begat Jean (F3);

F3 Jean & husband Alexander 4th High Steward begat James 5th High Steward (F4);

F4 James 5th High Steward & wife Cecilia begat Walter 6th High Steward (F5);

F5 Walter 6th High Steward & wife Marjorie begat Scotland’s king Robert II (F6);

F6 Robert II & first wife Elizabeth Mure begat John l/k/a Scotland’s king Robert III (F7);

F7 Robert III & wife Annabella Drummond begat Scotland’s king James I (F8);

F8 James I & wife Joan Beaufort8 begat Scotland’s king James II (F9);

F9 James II & wife Mary of Gueldres begat Scotland’s king James III (F10);

F10 James III & wife Margaret of Denmark begat Scotland’s king James IV (F11);

F11 James IV & wife Margaret Tudor begat Scotland’s king James V (F12);

F12 James V & wife Mary of Guise begat Scottish queen Mary Queen of Scots (F13);

F13 Mary Queen of Scots & Lord Darnley begat James VI (F14, of the “King James” Bible)!

Thus, the “King James” of Great Britain (simultaneously “James VI” as Scotland’s king, and “James I” as England’s king), who authorized what became famous as the “King James Bible”, was an F14 descendant of Viking King Somerled and his wife, Queen Ragnhild. (This impacts the whole world!)

  •    The Holy Bible is the most-published and most-sold book of all time, with more than 6,000,000,000 copies (excluding mere portions, which in aggregate would further increase the statistics).
  •    Of the 6 billion copies of the Holy Bible [more than 2 billion of which were distributed by the GIDEONS INTERNATIONAL, as of AD2015!], the most-published and most-sold version of the Bible is the English translation known as the “King James Bible” (a/k/a “King James Version” and the “Authorized Version”).
  •    The largest amount of Bible-based missionary work, missionary literature, and Biblical education around the world, since the time of Christ, has been provided in English (e.g., from British missionaries, American missionaries, etc.)….”   [Quoting from “To Globally Sow His Word, Did God Use Vikings?”.]

In other words, Somerled’s family lineage was indispensable, 14 generations after, for the procreative arrival – in God’s providence – of the man whom history knows as KING JAMES of the King James Bible!

How many lives do you know, personally, who have been blessed by the English translation of the Holy Bible that we today call the King James Bible?  As you think of the answer to that question, consider also that God providentially protected the life of Norse-Manx Viking, named Somerled, in order that there would be – half a millennium later – a baby boy born in Edinburgh, Scotland (in a room that my wife and I visited, during AD2002), who would grow up – by God’s grace – to be King James VI (of Scotland) and also King James I (of England)!


Now back to the birds, starting with the Northern Raven.

Northern Raven (Corvus corax) by Kent Nickell

Northern/Common Raven (Corvus corax) by Kent Nickell

COMMON  RAVEN  a/k/a  NORTHERN RAVEN  (Corvus corax).

Ravens are repeatedly mentioned in Scripture; they are even mentioned once by Jesus Himself (Luke 12:24).  What a beautiful bird, the Raven! – its monochrome plumage is iridescent black, appearing as glossy bluish-purple when sunlight reflects off the feathers (see Song of Solomon 5:11).  Its omnivorous appetite matches its name:  ravens are ravenous (Job 38:41; Proverbs 30:17)!   Ravens eat small mammals, carrion (with its associated maggots and carrion beetles), small invertebrates (including roadkill invertebrates, such as dead grasshoppers and other bugs), amphibians, reptiles, bird eggs, human garbage (especially food with fat in it), —  as well as plant food (such as agricultural grains) — whatever!  Ravens are also infamous as “kleptoparasites” (prey thieves), i.e., they steal food from other carnivorous/omnivorous predators, such as grey wolf-kills in winter. Garbage dumps and landfills are special attractions — raven smörgåsbords!

Common Ravens Feeding At Landfill ©WikiC

Common Ravens Feeding At Landfill ©WikiC

The historic role of a raven who survived the worldwide Flood with Noah’s family is recounted in Scripture (see Genesis 8:7).  Ravens, ironically, were directed by God to feed the prophet Elijah (compare 1st Kings 17:4-6 with Luke 12:24).

The name “Common Raven” is not an exaggeration, because ravens  are known to live in virtually all of the Northern Hemisphere (see range map below).

Corvus_corax_map ©WikiC

The Raven is a corvid – a term that simply means “crow-like” – like its close cousins:  rooks, jays, carrion crows (and other crows), choughs, jackdaws, etc.  [See generally Lee Dusing’s “Crows, Jays, Ravens – Corvidae Family”.]

Ravens are well known for various behavior habits, including their harsh crow-like vocalizations (Job 38:41).

Common Raven at Cypress Provincial Park, British Columbia ©WikiC

Common Raven at Cypress Provincial Park, British Columbia ©WikiC

The Common Raven (Northern Raven) appears in various localized “subspecies”, based upon geographically localized population forms:  (1) the paradigmatic European Raven (Corvus corax corax), ranging over and beyond continental Europe; (2) the Icelandic-Faeroese Raven (Corvus corax varius), somewhat smaller and less glossy than the European Raven; (3) the Southwest Asia Raven (Corvus corax subcorax), ranging from Greece to India, and parts of western China; (4) the North Africa Raven (Corvus corax tingitanus), ranging in North Africa and the Canary Islands, with the Canary Islands variety being somewhat browner in color; (5) the Himalayan Raven (Corvus corax tibetanus), the largest and glossiest subspecies, ranging in Tibet and other regions of the Himalayan Mountains; (6) the Northeastern Asia Raven (Corvus corax kamtschaticus), thicker-billed than the European Raven, ranging from northeastern Asia into the Baikal region; (7) North American Raven (Corvus corax principalis, a/k/a “Northern Raven” — which is confusing because both the species and this subspecies are known as “Northern Raven”), close cousins to those of Europe, according to mitochondrial DNA studies, these corvids range all over North America and Greenland, having the thickest bill of any Common Raven subspecies; (8) the Western Raven (Corvus corax  sinuatus), ranging in south-central America and Mesoamerica.   The term “Northern Raven” is better used for the species (i.e., the “Common Raven”) that encompasses all of these subspecies, because all of these subspecies reside in the Northern Hemisphere  —  so they are all “Northern” Ravens.

Also, it is worth mentioning that a football-playing variant (of “Ravens”) is famous in Maryland (on the East Coast of America), the “Baltimore Ravens” (see picture below  —  yet please notice that the Baltimore Ravens are not the kind of ravens who are mentioned in Luke 21:24 – see Hidden Assumptions Play ‘Hide Seek’ !

Baltimore Ravens - Bleacherreport

Regarding Ravens, the husband-wife ornithologist team of Donald and Lillian Stokes have observed their wariness of humans:

“The raven is … extremely wary of humans, spotting you form almost as far as half a mile away as you approach a nest, and then flying up and calling at your approach. … [so] studying ravens is best done through a scope or powerful binoculars….”  [Quoting from Donald Stokes & Lillian Stokes, GUIDE TO BIRD BEHAVIOR, Volume 3 (Little, Brown & Company, 1989), page 299.]


Raven Chicks

Raven Chicks

Ravens build a nest for their young, as most birds do.  The behavior of the parent birds gives a clue as to when their eggs are being incubated, in expectation of hatching, according to the observations of the Stokes duo:

“One clue to incubation’s having started is seeing only one raven soaring above the nest.  That would generally be the male since the incubating female spends most of her time on the eggs.  During incubation, the male brings food to the female and gives it to her at the nest or nearby.  When the female is about to receive the food she may flutter her wings close to her body and give the Kra-kra-call.  … When the male is not actively hunting for food for himself or the female, he is usually perched near the nest on a dead branch or ledge. The female occasionally leaves he nest, at which time the male may come to the nest, but he does not actually incubate the eggs.”  [Quoting from Stokes & Stokes, GUIDE TO BIRD BEHAVIOR, Volume 3, page 307.]

The nestling phase in the Raven family’s life cycle has been observed, with one activity making it easier to recognize where a raven nest is raising young:

“The young hatch over a period of a day or two.  The female eats the shells [a good source of calcium!] and broods the young for about two and a half weeks.  During this time the male does most of the feeding; after that, both parents participate in feeding the young.  During the first weeks of intensive brooding, when the female takes periodic leaves, the male stays near or on the nest until she returns.  The parents at first bring small food items for the young, picking the items apart before offering them to the young.  Later in the nestling phase larger food items are left at the nest and the young pull them apart to eat.  The parents may also come to the nest with water in their crops, which is then fed to the young.  On cold days the young are buried in the nest lining for warmth; on hot days the female may wet her underfeathers and cover the young to give them relief from the heat.  The young lift their tails as they defecate over the rim of the nest [there being no in-house plumbing accommodations!].  The nest rim or cliff ledge can have large white stains resulting from this behavior; the stains may help you locate the nest.  The young may fledge over a period of days.”  [Quoting from Stokes & Stokes, GUIDE TO BIRD BEHAVIOR, Volume 3, page 308.]]

But now let us consider the other bird supporting the Manx coat-of-arms, the Peregrine Falcon.

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) by Ray

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) by Ray

PEREGRINE  FALCON  (Falco peregrinus).

The Peregrine Falcon (also called the “Peregrine”) is dominated by bluish-grey plumage, with a pale underside (barred white), and a slate-black head.  Its eyes are large, for hunting prey, and its pale-yellow beak is strong, with a shape convenient for its carnivorous lifestyle – so it can tear into its diet of

True to its name (“peregrine” meaning “wanderer”, “sojourner”, one that goes through/throughout the land), the Peregrine’s range is worldwide [see range map below: yellow = summer breeding migrant range; green = year-round breeding; indigo blue = winter migrant range; Carolina blue = migrant passage range].

Peregrine Falcon Map ©WikiC

Peregrine Falcon Map ©WikiC

The Peregrine Falcon appears in about 20 various localized “subspecies”, based upon geographically localized population forms [see range map below, showing subspecies].

Breeding ranges of the subspecies of Peregrine Falcons ©WikiC

Breeding ranges of the subspecies of Peregrine Falcons ©WikiC

Six of those Peregrine subspecies are:  (1) the paradigmatic Eurasian Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus peregrinus), ranging throughout all of Europe, except for its Mediterranean Sea coastlands and the Iberian Peninsula, extending eastward through Siberia, except not its Arctic Ocean coastlands; (2) the once-endangered Arctic Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus tundris), ranging in the tundras of northern Alaska, northern Canada, and Greenland; (3) the once-endangered American Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum, a/k/a “Duck Hawk”), ranging throughout all of North America, except the Arctic coastlands habituated by its Arctic cousin – although its main population clustering is in the Rocky Mountains regions.  (However, Peregrine Falcons are making a “comeback” outside the Rockies, including revived populations in municipalities where they often prey on urban pigeons.)  The Mediterranean Sea coastlands, as well as all of Spain and Portugal, are habituated by the Mediterranean Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus brookei).  The endangered close cousin of the Peregrine, in America, is the Northern Aplomado Falcon (Falco femoralis septentrionalis).

Peregrine Falcon in Flight by Ray

Peregrine Falcon in Flight by Ray

The Peregrine Falcon typically lives in coastal lands, river valleys, and in mountain ranges – yet urban skyscrapers are deemed montane “cliffs” for these birds of prey, so don’t be shocked when you see a falcon “dive-bomb” (and kill, in midair) a pigeon, in the air between city office buildings or high-rise apartments.

Fair Use image credit peregrinefalcon

The typical nesting behavior of American Peregrine Falcons has been described as  “… on cliff ledges [near to] open habitats from tundra, savanna [grassland], and seacoasts to high mountains, on which the falcon makes a well-formed scrape in piled debris …  [sometimes using] abandoned tree nests or cavities  … [or, in urban contexts] on ledges of tall buildings and bridges”.  [Quoting Paul R. Ehrlich, David S. Dobkin, & Darryl Wheye, BIRDS IN JEOPARDY (Stanford University Press, 1992), page 48.]

Peregrine Falcon by ©©Weebly Uploads

Peregrine Falcon by ©©Weebly Uploads

The American Peregrine Falcon’s diet is quite a mixed bag:  “Birds, particularly doves and [other] pigeons, but also waterfowl [especially ducks], shorebirds, and passerines [i.e., perching songbirds, such as European Starlings] … [chasing and catching] prey in midair, dropping on flying birds from above and killing them in flight with a blow from their feet…. [sometimes involving speeds of] 60 miles per hour, in a [closed-wings] stoop on prey it can reach speeds exceeding 200 miles per hour”.  [Again quoting Ehrlich, Dobkin, & Wheye, BIRDS IN JEOPARDY, at page 48.]

In cities a Peregrine’s diet might consist 80% of mourning doves and pigeons.  Other avian fare (i.e., birds eaten as prey) include icterids (such as grackles and other blackbirds), thrushes (such as American robins), swifts, and other corvids (such as crows).  However, when available, Peregrines will also eat small rodents, such as mice, rats, voles, squirrels – or other small mammals such as shrews or rabbits (or sometimes even bats, at night!).

Peregrine Falcon (with doomed Pigeon in the falcon’s talons) ©DailyMail

Peregrine Falcon (with doomed Pigeon in the falcon’s talons)

The flying abilities of Peregrine Falcons are almost legendary – they fly “with shallow elastic wingbeats in which [wing] tips [are] very springy (characteristic of the larger falcons)”.  [Quoting Lars Jonsson, BIRDS OF EUROPE (Princeton University Press, 1992; translated by David Christie), page 160.]

And true to their name, they wander – they range to wherever they need to go.

Peregrine Falcoln ©Images Inc

Peregrine Falcoln ©Images Inc

Lessons for the Journey, as We “Hike” on our Earthly Pilgrimage

So, as “pilgrims” awaiting our future citizenship, in the Kingdom that is not yet here (Philippians 3:20) how should we approach our sometimes-stormy future – which mixes furies, frustrations, and failings with hopes, helps, and hallelujahs?

Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage. (Psalm 119:54)

In other words, Jesus put a song in my heart!

Stormy weather or calm, I can be (and should be) at least as brave as a Manx Viking rowing in a rainstorm, tossed up and down, from side to side, in the cold salt-spray of the Irish Sea.

Pennant ©Pinimg.Com

Pennant ©Pinimg.Com

Mainsail ©

Mainsail ©

Just as the resilient and resourceful Nordic seamen of old, including ancient Norse-Manx Vikings (and their biogenetic progeny, including sjøfolk that sail the Seven Seas today) strove to stay afloat  — till they rhed their destined safe-haven — let us “labor at the oars” of (this) life, until God brings us securely Home (see  ).

It is good to keep in mind that God Himself is our only real Home.  Meanwhile, He can guide and keep us, on the stormy seas of this temporal life, until it’s “our turn” to enter into His holy and happy presence, with everlasting joy.    ><> JJSJ



Lee’s One Word Monday – 2/8/16




Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? (Luke 12:24 NKJV)

Little Raven (Corvus mellori) Juvenile Calling to be fed the grub its mother just caught ©WikiC


Sandra’s New Kooky Challenge


Birds of the Bible – How Many Are There? I

Chihuahuan Raven (Corvus cryptoleucus)Raven (Corvus corax) by Kent Nickell

Northern Raven (Corvus corax) by Kent Nickell

The list of the Birds of the Bible varies according to which version of the Bible you use. We have discussed this in other articles, but don’t think I ever actually listed them all. An article from Birding and the Bible says there are 29 and then questions 2 of them, the Glede and the Ossifrage, adding the Swift, his lists is 28 or 29.

The sidebar here has links to 33 pages of Bible Birds. There are a few more I am considering adding. After this study, I may find even more. I am going to write this as I do my research using my e-Sword program (free). Currently, I have quite a few versions of the Scriptures loaded and want to see what is listed. (Disclaimer About Bible Version Usage) Let’s get started.

The very first reference to birds or fowls, is in Genesis 1:21. That is where God created “every winged fowl after his kind” (KJV) or ” every winged bird according to its kind” (NKJV). Most agree with, “And God saw that it was good.” Here are some of the other ways of stating it:

  • “winged creature feathered  according to type.” (ABP+)
  • “every creature that flies with wings according to its kind,” (Brenton)
  • “every kind of bird that flies in the air.” (ERV)
  • ” all kinds of birds.” (GNB)
  • “He created every kind of bird that flies.” (NIrV)

So basically, all agree that the birds or fowls were created after their kind or type on the fifth day (1:23) and that God saw that it was good. That right there includes all the major families of birds, some have become extinct, some which interbred within their kinds, etc. until today we now have over 10,000 named species of birds. (Birds of the World)

In Genesis 1:25 God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion” over birds, etc. The term his is given as “dominion over”, “have rule over”, “power over” (GNB), “be masters over” (ISV), “So they can be responsible for” (MSG).

Then in Genesis 2:20, Adam named the birds that the LORD God brought to him. The version all agree that they are birds or fowls or the air or heavens.

In chapter 3, Adam and Eve sin against God and we all come under the judgement including the critters, birds included. By chapter 6, things are so bad that the LORD tells Noah to bring two of every kind of critter into the Ark and then in 6:20, the birds are again mentioned. They are to be preserved in pairs of sevens. Again, no specific named bird is mentioned throughout chapter 6 or 7.

Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) by Lee

During and after the Flood, then we finally here of specific named birds. The first bird named in the Bible is the Raven. Noah opened the window of the ark and “sent forth a raven” and it flew back and forth “until the waters were dried up from off the earth.” (KJV) Other than spelling differences, they all agree on the Raven. The same is true of verse 8 where the Dove was released. The Dove kept coming back until the waters were totally dried up. The third time it was released, it did not return.

So now we have 2 Birds of the Bible – the Raven and the Dove.

The next reference to birds is in 9:2 where the birds now have a fear of humans placed on them. They, the birds, are told to multiply and fill the earth and are given a covenant or promise by God that the earth would never be destroyed by a worldwide flood again. Gen 9:10-17 – the Rainbow.

And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. (Genesis 9:2 KJV)

King Vulture Brevard Zoo 120913 by Lee

King Vulture Brevard Zoo by Lee

In Genesis 15:9 we find the next birds, a Turtledove, young pigeon and in 15:11, the vultures. Two are sacrificed birds, the other is coming to take from the alter.

So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. (Genesis 15:9-11 NKJV)

Let’s see how these birds are given in the various translations. “dove” several, “turtle” (DRB), “mourning dove” (GW), “even a nestling” (LITV), and “young bird” (YLT). Most are in agreement with spelling differences from the old English of some of the translations.

Verse 11 has: birds of prey, birds, fowls, large birds (DRB), swoopers (ECB), Vultures (GNB, MSG, NKJV), and ravenous birds (YLT). Never heard of “swoopers”, so I guess that one doesn’t count. What you think? They all realize that some birds came swooping down trying to get at the sacrifice, but Abram drove them away.

Our list of Birds of the Bible so far:

Also mentioned:

  • Swooper (Gen 15:11)

For now, that is enough. To be continued in Part II.

Birds of the Bible

Wordless Birds


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:


Birds of the Bible – Prayer

Sandhill Cranes with "Colts"

Sandhill Cranes with “Colts”

“Ah, Soul, God does listen to the chattering of cranes! I know He does, for I have read in His Word what is tantamount to that in the text [Isaiah 38:14],

Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me. (Isaiah 38:14 KJV)

Northern Raven (Corvus corax) by Kent Nickell

Northern Raven (Corvus corax) by Kent Nickell

“He hears the young ravens when they cry.”

And surely if He hears a raven’s cry and if not a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father, your prayer, though it may be very indistinct and the language, itself, may be very unworthy of the Divine ear, yet it shall command an audience and will bring down a blessing from above!”

American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea) w chicks ©USFWS

American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea) w chicks ©USFWS

Above is a quote from C. H. Spurgeon’s Notable Quotes: —Volume 61, Sermon #3468

 Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up. (Psalms 5:1-3 KJV)

See all the:

Birds of the Bible


Birds of the Bible – Job 38 – 39

Common Ostrich (Struthio camelus) Memphis Zoo by Lee

Common Ostrich (Struthio camelus) Memphis Zoo by Lee

Dan and I have been reading through Job for our devotions. Today was Job 38 and 39. Wow! All of Job’s “friends” have been trying to persuade Job how wrong and unrighteous he is and Job has been trying to figure out why he is being punished, yet defending his righteousness.

Finally in Job 38, God speaks. Job has been asking to speak to God about his situation. (From the Today in the Word, Vol II, Day 28) “So, when Job finally gets the audience with the Lord that he requested, he is not the one asking the questions!  Instead, like a prosecuting attorney, the Lord fires off the questions and informs Job ‘You will answer me’ (38:3). God challenges Job’s insinuation that He wasn’t administering justice fairly. This interrogation covers Job 38 and 39, but it could be paraphrased in this one penetrating question: ‘Were you present at creation?’ ”

If you haven’t read Job lately and especially Chapter 38 and 39, it worth reading.

Northern Raven (Corvus corax) by Ray

Northern Raven (Corvus corax) by Ray

Anyway, within those two chapters, God mentions the Raven and the Ostrich.

Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in their thicket? Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God for help, and wander about for lack of food? (Job 38:39-41 ESV)

Then in the next chapter God tells about the Ostrich that He created:

The wings of the ostrich wave proudly, but are they the pinions and plumage of love? For she leaves her eggs to the earth and lets them be warmed on the ground, forgetting that a foot may crush them and that the wild beast may trample them. She deals cruelly with her young, as if they were not hers; though her labor be in vain, yet she has no fear, because God has made her forget wisdom and given her no share in understanding. When she rouses herself to flee, she laughs at the horse and his rider. (Job 39:13-18 ESV)

Both of these birds have been covered in other Birds of the Bible articles, but just wanted to share them with you again. We know that God provides for the birds and He has promised to provide for His own, Christians. He also, makes birds different, at His will. Who are we to question His knowledge and wisdom. The same is true with us who know the Lord. He gives each of us different talents and abilities. We are not to question why He made us thus.

Birds of the Bible

Birds of the Bible – Ravens

Birds of the Bible – Ostrich

The Gospel Message