Raven and Black-billed Magpie

Meet two members of the intelligent Corvidae family, the Common Raven and Black-billed Magpie. Back to animal directory.


common raven

LIFE SPAN: 50 years in captivity.

RANGE: Ravens are found throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere. They are non-migratory in Alaska living from the Seward Peninsula to the Brooks Range, from mainland to the Aleutian Islands. They will travel short distances to cache food.

SIZE: Ravens are the largest all-black birds in the world. Wingspan of up to 4 feet.

PHYSICAL FEATURES: They have large, stout bills, shaggy throat feathers, and a wedge-shaped tail. 

FOOD: Omnivorous. Ravens are notorious scavengers, often visible while scavenging for food in urban areas. However they are classified as “ecological” or “functional” birds of prey because, like hawks and owls, they hunt and kill small animals such as mice. Like hawks and owls, ravens regurgitate undigested food items in a pellet form. 

BEHAVIOR: Courtship begins in mid-January. By March, adults form pairs and find nesting sights. Ravens lay 3 to 7 eggs. The female incubates the eggs while the male provides food. The eggs hatch after three weeks and the juveniles leave the nest after four weeks. Both parents feed the young by regurgitating food and water which is stored in a throat pouch. 

CONSERVATION: Protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Illegal to harm or possess any part, including feathers (unless permitted by USFWS).

PLANT NOTES: Ravens are highly omnivorous, meaning they eat a wide variety of plants and berries in addition to meat. They use vegetation for food, cover, nesting, perching and hiding stashes of food for later use. Unlike their cousins the crows, ravens will sometimes travel and live in more remote forests (especially to nest and raise young).


black-billed magpie

LIFE SPAN:  15 years in captivity.

RANGE:  Common in South-central and Southeast Alaska. Range extends south through the western and central United States as far south as Arizona and as far east as Michigan.

SIZE: Wingspan is approximately 22 to 24 inches and weights vary from 5 to 7 ounces. Magpies are an intermediate-sized corvid, ravens being larger and Steller’s Jays smaller.

PHYSICAL FEATURES:  Magpies are black and white with a long black tail. The juveniles look very similar to adults, with less feather iridescence. 

FOOD:  Magpies eat insects, grain, carrion and small rodents. They are omnivores who adapt to varying food resources.

BEHAVIOR:  They forage for food on the ground and build very large nests in trees. Nests may take over a month to construct and consist of a bowl of sticks and mud, lined with a variety of materials from their environment (hair, grass, etc). Magpies are known to predate on other birds, particularly in nests. They have been known to land on the backs of large mammal species to feed on insects or ticks. Magpies are known for their adaptable and outgoing behavior, often frequenting campsites or other areas of    human activity. Like other corvids, they are intelligent and able to mimic other species' vocalizations. Magpies mate for life.

CONSERVATION: Populations are stable and appear to be expanding to the eastern Lower 48 states.

NOTE ABOUT OUR ZOO MAGPIE: Many visitors notice that our zoo magpie has some special talents. George the magpie has gained fame for talking in a voice that mimics human speech. George flew into the zoo, approached a zookeeper, started talking and was not able to integrate back with wild magpies. The next time you visit, stop by to say "Hi George!".