Brown-necked raven (Corvus ruficollis)

Also known as: brown necked raven, desert raven
French: Corbeau brun
GenusCorvus (1)
SizeLength: 52 - 56 cm (2)
Weight500 - 647 g (2)

The brown-necked raven is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

A large, attractive corvid with glossy plumage, the brown-necked raven (Corvus ruficollis) has distinctive, elongated, pointed and often forked throat feathers known as hackles, and a large, slightly curved, thick set bill (2) (3). The lustrous black feathers are tinged with dark green on the crown and upperparts, and violet on the wings, breast, flanks and tail, while the back of the neck, throat and the upper-back is a shiny brown, glossed with bronze-purple. The underparts are sooty-black, the bill and legs are black, and the eyes are brown. The male and female brown-necked raven are similar in appearance, but the juvenile differs in being less glossed, with a duller head and underparts. Although similar in appearance to the common raven (Corvus corax), the brown-necked raven is distinguished by its smaller size, slimmer build, shorter wings with a more pointed tip, and brown head and neck (2).

The brown-necked raven is found from western Africa, eastwards into the Middle East and south-western Asia (3).

The opportunistic brown-necked raven is found in a variety of natural habitats, including hot desert, rocky areas, savanna, shrubland, freshwater springs and oases, as well as artificial habitats, such as arable land and urban areas, including rubbish dumps (2) (3). It occurs up to altitudes of 3,700 metres (3).

The brown-necked raven is an omnivore, with a diet that consists of a wide range of food types, including berries and fruits, insects, snakes, birds and small mammals, and occasionally even sickly newborn lambs and gazelles. As an intelligent, versatile and highly adaptable species, the brown-necked raven displays a great variety of foraging strategies, often visiting mangroves to steal from bird nests, scavenging for food from rubbish dumps and visiting roads, where it searches for road kill, and also probes underneath rocks for insects and grain (2). It also feeds on the parasites of larger animals, and even aggravates sores, so that it can feed on the blood. Furthermore, as a result of its high degree of intelligence, the brown-necked raven has learnt to hunt cooperatively, and may do so to flush insects out of long grass (2) (4). It is possible, like other members of the crow family, that the brown-necked raven hoards food, using memory to locate hidden food stashes, allowing the bird to survive during periods when food is scarce (2) (4).

The brown-necked raven is monogamous, forming a lifelong pair bond. The breeding season typically lasts for three to four months, with the timing of breeding varying greatly over the species’ large range, and just one clutch is laid per year. Pairs nest alone, far away from other brown-necked ravens, with the nest often constructed underneath a lappet-faced vulture (Torgos tracheliotos) nest for protection. Occasionally a deserted raptor nest may be used (2). A clutch of between two and six eggs is laid (5), but in true desert environments clutch size drops to just two or three eggs. The male collects and brings food to the incubating female, but after hatching both adult birds take care of the chicks. Occasionally the pair are assisted in raising the chicks by offspring from the previous year. After fledging, juveniles join non-breeding adults in roving flocks (2).

Although the global population size is unknown, there are currently no known major threats to the brown-necked raven (1).

In the absence of any known major threats, the brown-necked raven has not been the target of any conservation measures, although it is afforded a degree of protection in several national parks, including Tigrovaya Balka Nature Reserve in Tajikistan (3).

For more information on the brown-necked raven and other bird species, see:

For more information about conservation in the Emirates:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2010)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D.A. (2009) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. BirdLife International - brown-necked raven (September, 2010)
  4. Perrins, C. (2009) The Encyclopedia of Birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. El-Bahrawy, A.A.F., Vijver, M.G. and de Snoo, G.R. (2007) Threats and control of the brown necked ravens (Corvus ruficollis) in Egypt. Communications in Agricultural and Applied Biological Science, 72: 221-231.