Community news and investigative journalism for Wapping E1W and Tower Hamlets London

The Wapping corvid. Corvus corax or not?

By on May 31, 2013 in Wildlife

Previously the Wapping Wildlife Rangers reported on the sighting of what experts believe might be the first wild raven to be seen in London since 1860. 

Which is amazing news. But even the experts find it difficult to differentiate between the different members of the crow or corvid family. And some have cast doubt of the genus of Ronnie (Veronica) our Wapping raven.

By some strange coincidence there just happens to be the most famous ravens in the world just down the road at the Tower of London. How handy! Wapping is after all a hamlet of the tower. And very proud of it we are too.

Anyway I wandered down to our local tower and spent a good hour watching and photographing the amazing ravens there. Superb animals. And the reason I was taking so many photos was because I wanted to do a comparison between the Tower of London ravens and our corvid. And see what I could see.

So have a look at this photograph and see what you think. Comments at the bottom of the page please.

One raven or two?

One raven or two?

Tricky, isnt it?

Same bird in two different locations? Ignore the colour difference, that is down to the different lighting.

I would emphasise once again that I am in no way an expert on birds, urban birds or the corvid family. But I have spent a lot of time in the last few weeks trying to work out the best way to spot the difference between a crow and a raven. Or a crow and a carrion crow.

I think the easiest way to spot the difference between a crow and a raven are:

  • Sound (raven has a very distinct call)
  • Size (ravens are BIG)
  • Beak (quite distinct)
  • Shape of head (raven heads seem more rounded?)
  • Hackles (ravens have distinct shaggy feathers on the throat and at the top of their legs)

So. Is the Wapping corvid a corvus corax or not? Same photo, different captions.

One raven, two corvids or two ravens?

One raven, two corvids or two ravens?

The Tower of London corvid is most definitely a raven. And seems identical to the Wapping corvid. I just happen to be professionally qualified in forensic science which I hoped might come in handy one day.

The Wapping corvid is big, the beak is identical to the Tower raven, the shape of its head is rounded (which alerted me to the fact it might be a raven in the first place) and it has hackles on throat and legs. I haven’t heard it’s call as yet.

But a still photo can only tell you so much. At the Tower of London today the clincher was simply the way the ravens there move along the ground. Not only do they know they own it and it’s their territory but they have a swagger to them which crows don’t have.

Or maybe Chris Skaife has been giving them drill in the evenings?

Raven at Tower of London

Raven at Tower of London

The conclusion I have come to is that the Wapping corvid is a young corvus corax.

But as I say I am no expert. So I hope some real experts will help me out as they have already. Chris Skaife the Raven Master at the Tower of London was absent with leave when I visited today, a whole three weeks of very well earned leave probably somewhere with lots of birds. Rainham Marshes?

An odd thing.

I have spent a lot of time the last few weeks wandering around Wapping enjoying our local wildlife.

Enjoying some Wapping nuts

Enjoying some Wapping nuts

On several occasions I have been followed by a corvid, see photo above.

Yes, followed.

Probably because he or she wants more monkey nuts.

I am not sure if it is Ronnie or not but corvids are very bright indeed so it might well be.

A really odd thing.

Now this is just weird and probably just down to me wishing it to be true. The other weekend I went to visit the lovely wildlife area over in Rotherhithe which is directly south of Wapping.

Wandering along by the water there a small twig dropped from the sky onto my head. I looked up and what should I see? Yes, a corvid. After a nut.

I doubt if the twig was dropped deliberately but then again curious incidents of the feathered variety do tend to happen in Wapping.

At the moment I await feedback from experts on this post but intend to get better quality photographs and a better indication of the Wapping corvid. Or should I say the Wapping corvus corax?

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  1. Mummy Penguin says:

    I noticed what I thought was the Wapping corvid in St John’s Churchyard last week. It was the swaggering walk that caught my eye. Definitely a bird that thought well of itself. I watched it for a few minutes until it took off presumably disgusted by my failure to supply nuts. If it is a young corvid then it’s going to grow to quite a size. My old bird book says they can be similar in size to a buzzard with an “an easy soaring flight with regular powerful wingbeats” Unfortunately the trees meant I wasn’t able to see it properly in flight.

    • Mark Baynes says:

      Yes that’s the one i see although not sure if it’s the raven. I saw it this morning and it had obviously been in a scrap as it had some feathers loose, probably one of the magpies. I saw one ‘bounce’ it in midair from balcony during the week. Irrespective of it being the raven or not I have noticed that it now seems to be the dominant corvid around here, in fact I dont often see the other crows anymore, just this one.

      I should equip yourself with a bag of monkey nuts (i recommend Waitrose brand) and I am sure it will soon be following you too! The trick is to throw / drop them then move away a little, then the bird will come down.

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