The Resident Ravens of Crystal Cove
As summer comes to an end, visitors at Crystal Cove make their way back home. Along with the flocks of shorebirds that start to migrate in, as you take your stroll along the park, you may encounter a shadowy black figure flying overhead. Chances are that you might have witnessed a common raven.
Common ravens are birds that are often mistaken for crows, as they can have very similar appearance. However, in flight, a common raven can be distinguished by their larger wingspan of up to 150 centimeters, and their more stable soaring pattern, as compared to the crows. Common ravens can be found all across the northern hemisphere and are known to nest at wooded areas and coastal regions with open spaces.
Luckily for us, common ravens also inhabit Crystal Cove and have been occupying nesting sites along the bluff trails and sea bluffs for many years. Rick Boufford, Crystal Cove’s own raven and sea glass expert, has been observing the ravens and their behavior at Crystal Cove for over 20 years. He mentioned that “common ravens are known to mate for life and defend nests for multiple years,” which makes it easier for him to study them over time. “Gus and Lisa are one of the mated pairs that I have been observing for 22 years,” said Rick, “they can always be found flying around the Newport Coast Drive entrance to the state park.” He also stated that part of why common ravens enjoy Crystal Cove as a place for nesting is that resources are readily available. “They are opportunistic feeders and will eat pretty much anything that they can get a hold of.”
As the common raven pairs mate for life they invest many resources into raising offspring. “Gus and Lisa have had young every single year since I’ve been observing them,” Rick said. “Typically, these young will fledge at about 30 – 36 days but have been seen staying with the parents anywhere from 2 months to 2 years.” The common raven young will eventually leave as staying with the parents for extended period of time can result in a competition of resources.
Gus and Lisa are only one of the four coastal pairs of common ravens that Rick has observed around the park. Next time you are strolling along the bluff paths or even the beach, try to observe the common ravens in their natural environment. If you’re lucky, you might see them tending to their young, on the lookout for food, or enjoying the beach!