COLUMBUS — For the first time in more than a century, common ravens have nested in Ohio.
This largest of all songbirds was last known to have nested in Ohio during the late 1800s — in a once heavily forested area of the northwest known as the Black Swamp. This region was one of the last Ohio frontiers to be settled and was the last stronghold for the common raven in the state.
Once abundant statewide, the loss of nesting habitat due to the destruction of woodlands during the last few decades of the 19th century caused the population to decline. By 1900, ravens could no longer be found breeding in Ohio. However, these smart and resourceful birds have been expanding their breeding range throughout the Appalachian region for the last decade or so.
Increased numbers began nesting in western Pennsylvania in recent years. Scattered sightings of individual ravens were recorded in southeast Ohio during the past 10 years, probably representing “scout” birds expanding westward into now-suitable habitat.
At least two ravens were spotted in and around Fernwood in 2006 and 2007. Researchers discovered this spring’s nesting pair in March and documented five young birds.
The common raven is 20-27 inches in length, weighs up to 2.5 pounds and has a 46-inch wingspan. Both male and female birds work to construct nests, which are usually found on a high cliff wall or in the fork of a tree 45-80 feet above the ground.
The average pair produces three to seven chicks and both parents work to supply food for the offspring. Ravens are omnivorous eaters, dining on insects, eggs, small amphibians and rodents, garbage or the leftovers of other predators.
The return of ravens to Ohio symbolizes the recovery of the state’s forests and the resilience of one of the most adaptable and intelligent birds.