Monday, March 16, 2009

The Ravens of Kilimanjaro

White Naped Ravens at Horombo

Once you reach the moorland as you climb Kilimanjaro the most noticable bird you will see is the White Naped Raven. If you are not a birder you may think it just another crow. In Moshi and Arushu there is a crow, the Pied Crow which is fairly similar in appearance. They are however two different birds. In fact crows and ravens occur throughout most of the world and the differences between them are the same here in North America or Europe as they are in Africa. Ravens are larger than crows. In the case of these two species the Raven is listed as 22" in length and the Crow is 18 inches in length.

Pied Crow at Springlands Hotel, Moshi

This Pied Crow, above, which is in the courtyard of the Springlands hotel shows the white markings on the chest and on the back of the neck. The Raven, below, only has white on the nape or back of its neck.

The "roman nose " beak common to all ravens

Ravens have massive thick beaks, while crows seem to have normally proportioned beaks. Note the straighter, thinner beak on the crow photo above.
Ravens also tend to have a distinctive "crrroaking" call sound, while crows including the pied crow tend to caw. I do not have a recording of the raven call but do have this video of the Pied Crow cawing in the Springland Hotel courtyard.

The Pied Crow occurs widely in East Africa including in cities and up to altitudes of 3000 metres, although we saw no sign of them once we left Moshi for the mountain.

We did encounter Ravens once we reached Mandara huts and saw them as high as Kibo huts, including the one pictured on the rocks above. My field guide suggests they can be seen to 5800 mtres on Kili, ie the summit!

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