The forest raven (Corvus tasmanicus) is the largest species of the Corvus genus in Australia, and the only member of the corvid family that has a permanent population in Tasmania. It is native to Tasmania and a few small isolated populations in Victoria, such as Wilsons Promontory and Portland. Relict populations are also found in parts of New South Wales, such as Coffs Harbour and Armidale.
Taxonomy and naming
Gregory Mathews described the forest raven as a distinct subspecies Corvus marianae tasmanicus in 1912, its species name derived from Tasmania, the type locality. Preliminary genetic analysis of the genus using mitochondrial DNA showed the three raven species to belong to one lineage and the two crows to another, in the clade of Australasian species. The genetic separation between species is small and there was a suggestion the forest raven may be conspecific with the Australian raven. Subsequent multigene analysis using nuclear DNA by Jønsson and colleagues in 2012 clarified that the forest and little raven are each other's closest relative. The northern subspecies boreus turned out to be nested in the Tasmanian tasmanicus, indicating the populations separated very recently.
The largest of the Australian corvids, the forest raven is 50–53 cm in length with a wingspan between 91 and 113 cm and weight of approximately 650 g.The plumage is a glossy black, with a blue or green sheen visible on upper plumage, there is no seasonal variation in plumage. The iris is white. It has a proportionately larger bill and shorter tail than the other mainland corvids. Sexes have identical plumage, however the male is generally larger, although there is considerable overlap in size between individuals.
Juveniles are smaller than adults, with a shorter slightly and greyer bill, and softer plumage that has less sheen. Adult plumage is attained at three years of age, with younger immature birds lacking adult hackles, and retaining the brown coloured irises of juvenile birds.
The call is considered the most reliable means of identification in areas where its range overlaps with other corvids, and is a deep "korr-korr-korr-korr" with a similarly drawn out last note to the Australian raven.
An outlying population exists in a small area in the tablelands of northeastern New South Wales. The suggestion that this form be given specific rank and be known as the relict raven (Corvus boreus) appears not to have gathered favour, and the relict raven remains classified as a subspecies, C. tasmanicus boreus. The Victorian Ornithological Research Group is currently conducting research on the forest raven (C. tasmanicus) and the little raven (C. mellori).
Distribution and habitat
The forest raven inhabits a wide range of habitat within Tasmania such as woods, open interrupted forest, mountains, coastal areas, farmland and town and city fringes. It is also found in southern Victoria from Gippsland west through Wilson's Promontory and the Otway Ranges. Further west, it occurs patchily in south-east South Australia.
In its present stronghold — the state of Tasmania — the forest raven is one of only three native birds that have no legal protection outside national parks and other reserves. The other two unprotected species are the great cormorant and the little pied cormorant. All other native Tasmanian birds are listed as protected under the state's Nature Conservation Act 2002.
The forest raven is an omnivore; its diet includes a wide range of foods such as insects, carrion, fruit, grain and earthworms. It has been known to kill and eat birds as large as the silver gull (Larus novaehollandiae) using some degree of cunning by pretending to forage near enough to get close for the kill.
The nest is constructed from twigs and lined with available materials such as leaves, wool, grass, bark or feathers. Nests are generally constructed in a similar manner to the Australian raven, high in a tall tree, however nests have been constructed on the ground in locations such as Tasmania's offshore islands where trees are not available.
Forest raven, Mole Creek, Tasmania, Australia
Forest raven feeding on the remains of a roadkilled kangaroo, Mole Creek, Tasmania, Australia
Forest raven, Renison Bell Conservation Reserve, Tasmania, Australia
- BirdLife International (2013). "Corvus tasmanicus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Thomas, R; Thomas, S; Andrew, D; McBride, A (2011). Storer, P, ed. The complete guide to finding the birds of Australia (2nd ed.). Collingwood, Victoria, Australia: CSIRO Publishing. p. 370. ISBN 9780643097858.
- Higgins et al., p. 717.
- Haring, Elisabeth; Däubl, Barbara; Pinsker, Wilhelm; Kryukov, Alexey; Gamauf, Anita (2012). "Genetic divergences and intraspeciﬁc variation in corvids of the genus Corvus (Aves: Passeriformes: Corvidae) – a ﬁrst survey based on museum specimens". Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 50 (3): 230–46. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0469.2012.00664.x.
- Jønsson, Knud A.; Fabre, Pierre-Henri; Irestedt, Martin (2012). "Brains, tools, innovation and biogeography in crows and ravens". BMC Evolutionary Biology 12. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-72.
- Higgins, Peter Jeffrey; Peter, John M.; Cowling, S.J. (eds.) (2006). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Vol. 7: Boatbill to Starlings. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-553996-7.