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Noble Raven

Ravens are a large, black bird found in wilderness areas in the Northern Hemisphere. The Common Raven has coexisted with humans for thousands of years and in some areas have been so numerous that they are considered a pest. Part of its success comes from its omnivorous diet; Common Ravens are extremely versatile and opportunistic in finding sources of nutrition, scavenging and feeding on carrion, insects, cereal grains, berries, fruit, small animals, and food waste.

A mature Common Raven ranges between 56 and 78 cm (22 to 30 inches) in length, with a wingspan of 100 to 150 cm (40 to 59 in). Recorded weights range from 0.69 to 2 kg (1.5 to 4.4 lb), thus making the Common Raven one of the heaviest “perching birds”. Birds from colder regions are generally larger with slightly larger bills, while those from warmer regions are smaller with proportionally smaller bills. The bill is large and slightly curved, with a culmen length of 5.7 to 8.5 cm (2.2 to 3.3 in), easily one of the largest bills amongst “perching birds”. It has a longish, strongly graduated tail, at 20 to 26.3 cm (7.9 to 10.4 in), and mostly black iridescent plumage, and a dark brown iris. The throat feathers are elongated and pointed and the bases of the neck feathers are pale brownish-grey. The legs and feet are good-sized, with a tarsus length of 6 to 7.2 cm (2.4 to 2.8 in). Juvenile plumage is similar but duller with a blue-grey iris. Although ravens are almost always black, there do exist exceptionally rare white ravens.

Apart from its greater size, the Common Raven differs from its cousins, the crows, by having a larger and heavier black beak, shaggy feathers around the throat and above the beak, and a wedge-shaped tail. The species has a distinctive, deep, resonant prruk-prruk-prruk call, which to experienced listeners is unlike that of any other corvid. Its very wide and complex vocabulary includes a high, knocking toc-toc-toc, a dry, grating kraa, a low guttural rattle and some calls of an almost musical nature. In flight the feathers produce a creaking sound that has been likened to the rustle of silk. Like other corvids, ravens can mimic sounds from their environment, including human speech. Fifteen to 30 categories of vocalization have been recorded for this species, most of which are used for social interaction. Calls recorded include alarm calls, chase calls, and flight calls. Non-vocal sounds produced by the Common Raven include wing whistles and bill snapping. Clapping or clicking has been observed more often in females than in males. If a member of a pair is lost, its mate reproduces the calls of its lost partner to encourage its return.

Common Ravens can be very long-lived, especially in protected conditions; with some individuals living more than 40 years. Lifespans in the wild are considerably shorter at typically 10 to 15 years. The longest known lifespan of a wild Common Raven was 23 years, 3 months.

Juveniles begin to court at a very early age, but tend to travel in flocks and may not bond for another two or three years. Aerial acrobatics, demonstrations of intelligence, and ability to provide food are key behaviors of courting. Once paired, they tend to nest together for life, usually in the same location. Instances of non-monogamy have been observed in Common Ravens, by males visiting a female’s nest when her mate is away. Breeding pairs must have a territory of their own before they begin nest-building and reproduction, and thus aggressively defend a territory and its food resources. Nesting territories vary in size according to the density of food resources in the area. The nest is a deep bowl made of large sticks and twigs, bound with an inner layer of roots, mud, and bark and lined with a softer material, such as deer fur. The nest is usually placed in a large tree or on a cliff ledge, or less frequently in old buildings.

Females lay between three to seven pale bluish-green, brown-blotched eggs. Incubation is about 18 to 21 days, by the female only. However, the male may stand or crouch over the young, sheltering but not actually brooding them. Young fledge at 35 to 42 days, and are fed by both parents. They stay with their parents for another six months after fledging. In most of their range, egg laying begins in late mid to late winter. Eggs and hatchlings are rarely preyed on by large hawks and eagles, large owls, martens and canids. The adults, which are very rarely predated, are often successful in defending their young from these predators, due to their numbers, large size and cunning. They have been observed dropping stones on potential predators that venture close to their nests.

Some notable feats of problem-solving have been observed in the species, leading to the belief that it is highly intelligent. Over the centuries, the Common Raven has been the subject of mythology, folklore, art, and literature. In many indigenous cultures the Common Raven has been revered as a spiritual figure or god.

Species Descriptions

While any raven will eat carrion, the noble raven’s favorite buffet will always be the battlefield. Some consider them nothing but opportunistic scavengers — and they are — but noble ravens have a deep respect for brave beings that die in battle. Most noble ravens learn to speak Common so that they can understand and sing the ballads of mighty heroes and great battles. A noble raven considers it not at all disrespectful, and indeed a great honor, to eat the eyes of a fallen hero.

Noble crows have a deep affection for shiny objects. While there are some things in nature that will satisfy this desire, nowhere else can they find the staggering variety found among the belongings of humanoids. Because of this, noble crows will usually stay close to humanoid settlements, the better to keep themselves supplied with baubles. Some noble crow spellcasters have been known to take the Gift of Understanding feat so that they can pilfer magical trinkets almost exclusively.

Noble Raven Species Traits

  • Ability Score Modifiers: 2 Strength (Noble ravens always begin play with a Strength of 2 – this can be increased through level advancement as usual), +4 Dexterity, -2 Constitution, +4 Wisdom.
  • Size: Tiny.
  • Base Speed: 10 ft., Fly 40 (average).
  • Natural Weapons: claws (1d2) (this is a single attack using both claws).
  • Senses: Low-light vision (Ex).
  • Natural Talent Track: Skill Focus (Perception), Weapon Finesse.
  • Family: Avian.
  • Noble Animal Type: Noble ravens have the noble animal type except where superseded by other species traits and features.
  • Social Group: None.
  • Automatic Languages: High Fauna, Raptor, and Songbird.
  • Bonus Languages: Bat, Camel, Canine, Common, Crocodilian, Elephant, Equine, Feline, Herdspeak, Hyena, Lizard, Monitor, Rodent, Serpent, Simian, Ursine, and Woodland.

Noble Crow Sub-Species Traits

  • Social Group: Murder.

In all other ways, the noble crow shares the same species traits as the noble raven.

Section 15: Copyright Notice

The Noble Wild. Copyright 2009 by Lee Garvin and Skirmisher Publishing LLC.