Monitoring and conserving Scotland's birds of prey
This extremely intelligent and sociable passerine, steeped in mythology and legend, has been adopted by the SRSG as an 'honorary' raptor. In the early 19th century the raven was common and widespread throughout much of Scotland but as a result of persecution by gamekeepers and farmers during much of the 19th century and some of the 20th century, it became confined mainly to western and south-western Scotland and the islands. Currently the raven population is considered to be increasing both in range and in breeding numbers in the uplands although it is still uncommon as a breeding species in some parts of eastern Scotland where persecution may be suppressing the population. After decades of absence, the species is gradually reoccupying former lowland home ranges close to farmland and populated areas. A pair has now been recorded breeding successfully within Glasgow City boundaries.
No national survey has been undertaken to determine the number of breeding pairs within Scotland however Forrester et al. (2007) suggest a breeding population in the range of 2,500 to 6,000 pairs and a mid-winter range of 10,000 to 25,000 birds. The Scottish Raptor Study Group currently monitors over 450 raven home ranges throughout Scotland.
As breeding pairs and non-breeding flock sizes increase, ravens are once again being perceived in some parts of the country as a threat to upland sheep farming and red grouse shooting Ravens build deep wool-lined nests on high cliffs, crags, ravines, and trees as well as occasionally on man-made structures such as dams, derelict buildings, telecommunications masts and pylons. They generally lay 4 to 6 eggs in February-March with the eggs hatching to coincide with a period when there is a good supply of food available for the young. Most young fledge from late April to mid May remaining with the adults for several months. Home ranges will remain occupied by territorial pairs all year.
Young birds and non territorial pairs gather in communal roosts throughout the year. The roosts are generally in trees or on crags often close to permanent or semi permanent food sources such as refuse tips and large rabbit warrens. Some roosts are occupied for many years while others may only be used for a few weeks or months. A few roosts in Scotland have recorded significant numbers of over 300 birds with some ravens estimated to commute over 20km daily to and from roosts. Counting roosts in the winter months is a good pastime for those with breeding season withdrawal symptoms!
Ravens are omnivorous and opportunistic feeders, their diet consisting of a large variety of items including sheep and deer carrion, hares, rabbits, voles, various invertebrates, eggs, berries and human rubbish. In fact scavengers which have been described as our vulture substitute. They also have one of the largest vocabularies of any bird species; their distinctive and evocative calls being an intrinsic element of the uplands and rugged coastlines.
Etheridge, B., Riley, H.T., Wernham, C.V., Holling, M., and Stevenson, A. (2013). Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme Report 2011. Scottish Raptor Study Group, Inverness.
Forrester, R., Andrews, I.J., McInery, C.J., Murray, R.d., McGowan, R.Y., Zonfrillo, B., Betts, M.W., Jardine, D.C. & Grundy, D.S. (Eds.) (2007). The Birds of Scotland. The Scottish Ornithologists' Club, Aberlady.
Holloway, S. (1996). The Historical Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A.D. Poyser, London.
Ratcliffe, D. (1997) The Raven. T. & A.D. Poyser, London.
Hen Harrier• Goshawk• Sparrowhawk• Common Buzzard• Golden Eagle
Osprey• Kestrel• Merlin• Hobby• Peregrine Falcon• Barn Owl
Tawny Owl• Long-eared Owl• Short-eared Owl• Raven