Record # 2010-14
Possible Chihauhaun Raven

Note: All photos are by Dr. John Fitzpatric.  Photos 1 through 3 are of a Common Raven for comparison.  Photos A-C are of the record bird.

  Photo #1
To establish a basis for comparison, I will begin by sending the three photos we obtained of the Common Raven. In my report, this is the bird referred to as the Visitor Center bird. This bird, in my opinion, shows the classic features of the bill of a Common Raven. Looking at the rictal bristles, those of this bird appear to extend from the base of the bill forward to a point I would call almost exactly half the bill length. Besides length, look at the arrangement of the bristles on the bill. They appear tightly packed close to the bill and the terminal tips appear to cut off fairly evenly, yielding a "neat" appearance in which the proximal half of the bill is tightly feathered while the distal half is clearly and completely exposed.
The bill of Common Raven is said to be slightly longer and narrower than that of Chihuahuan Raven. That may be impossible to establish without direct comparison, but this bird's bill fit the match for Common Raven-longish and somewhat narrow.


  Photo #2
This is the second of the three Common Raven shots we took (Visitor Center bird).
In some ways, this is the photo I should have started with. It's an even closer-up image of the same Common Raven, but shows the bird with its bill slightly more closed. This angle of the bird clearly shows the tight, "clean" arrangement of the rictal bristles, their more-or-less even length, and their termination at the halfway point of the bill, as well as the featherless distal half of the bill and the long, somewhat narrow profile of the bill.
I am not aware if head profile matters, but this angle seems to show a gradual slope from the bird's skull to the start of the bill.


  Photo 3
Image #3 is the last of the Common Raven (Visitor Center bird) images. This is an interesting shot because it was taken from a little further away. However, if you use the zoom feature on your photo viewer, you can still easily see the distinictive bill qualities of this bird including the features of the rictal bristles as described in the previous two messages.
At first glance, bill size and shape is harder to determine. I felt that the length and thickness of the bill was not immediately apparent, but the projection beyond the termination of the rictal bristles and the low profile of the head, especially where it meets the bill, provide sound basis for calling this bird a Common Raven.


  Photo A
Image #4 is the first of three shots of the bird I called Chihuahuan Raven, or the Mesa Arch Parking Area bird in my report. You can decide for yourselves, but I think this is the best of the three images I have to send you.

The rictal bristles of this bird appear long and shaggy with an arrangement of the terminal tips of the bill appearing "unkempt" and terminating in a "less clean: fashion than those of the Common Raven. From the tips of the longer rictal bristles, the bill feathering appears, to my eye, to extend slightly beyond the halfway point of the bill, imparting a sense of the bill being shorter (which it probably is anyway). As for shape, this bird's bill is shorter and stouter than that of the Common Raven that appears in the first three photos. I am fully aware that these features are often difficult to discern without direct comparison (To let you know, we did compare the photos in succession as PowerPoint slides on the evening of the day the birds were photographed. To us, the bill size and shape were different.). Also, look at the head profile. The skull appears more peaked and seem to manifest a greater slope to the bill than corresponding features of the Common Raven.

On another note, I have not yet mentioned the length of the neck feathering. The Sibley guide indicates that Common Raven has shaggier neck feathering than Chihuahuan Raven. Until I looked at the field guide, I was not aware of this mark; nevertheless, if you look closely at the neck feathering of this bird, compared with those of the Common Raven in photo #3, you might be able to discern a difference. On the other hand, maybe I'm grasping at straws with this one.

  Photo B

Here we have photo #5, or #2 featuring the Mesa Arch Parking Area bird. This photo is equally good as the last, if not better. The appearance of the rictal bristles, the shorter and stouter bill, and the head profile are on full display in this shot. If you compare the first two pictures I sent you of the Common Raven, the exposed part of this bird's bill appears less than that of the Common Raven.
  Photo C
Photo, #6, and the third of the Mesa Arch Parking Area bird.

I'd like to begin by correcting an error in my report. I reported the bird's perch by our touring van as a post, I believe, when in fact the bird is clearly perched on a tree stump. Anyway, this is a good picture of the bird as well. Notice that even without zooming, you can see hints of white feathering on the left side of the bird's body and neck, perhaps even a little bit over the eye. The features of the bill and rictal bristles are also apparent, especially after zooming in on those parts of the bird.

Photo C'

(This is Photo C or #6, cropped by the webmaster)