Backyard Birds

Fan-tailed Ravens

The Fan-tailed Raven (Corvus rhipidurus) is like the Chihuahuan Raven one of the smaller species (47 cm in length), in fact it is about the same size as a Carrion Crow but with a much thicker bill, shorter tail, and much larger wings.

It is completely black including the bill, legs, and feet and the plumage has a purplish-blue gloss in good light. Worn plumage is slightly coppery-brown.

The base of the feathers on the upper neck are white and only seen if the bird is inspected or a strong gust blows them the wrong way. The throat hackles are shorter than in most other ravens.

Crow InformationRaven Information PagePhotos of Raven Species for Identification

Distribution and habitat

It occurs in the Middle East, North Africa, Arabia, and south to Sudan and Kenya. It also ranges across the Air Massif in the southern Sahara. It lives in a desert or open dry country that includes crags for nesting.

It is one of the most aerial of birds traveling huge distances in search of food, its large wings being adapted to gliding on thermals in a rather vulture-like way.


Food is invariably taken on the ground and includes all manner of insects and other invertebrates (= animals without internal skeletons, such as larvae, insects, earthworms, millipedes, snails, and spiders), grain taken from animal dung, carrion, and scraps of human food.

It has also been seen taking skin parasites from Camels and where not persecuted, scavenging around rubbish dumps and camp sites.

Fruits of all types are course eaten readily. It soars and plays in thermals even more so than other Raven species and often associates with the Brown-necked Raven roosting in the same tree as it.


The Fan-tailed Raven species nests on rock ledges and in cavities in cliffs though very rarely in Somalia it has been known to nest in trees.

There are usually 2-4 eggs laid. The Great-spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius) sometimes uses this species as a brood host.


The voice is described as guttural croaks mixed with the sound of frog-call.


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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