Birding Basics at Mission Trails Regional Park

Crows ’n’ Ravens 101

Winona Sollock
  • Winona Sollock

Winona Sollock, a Mission Trails Regional Park trail guide and resident birder, used to collect parrots and moved with 65 birds in 1988 to "the last house on a hill" east of Temecula. Sollock bred parrots, "incubated birds in the bedroom and spoonfed babies."

The surrounding land was vacant, and she began collecting game birds, including guineas, peacocks, and pheasants. She put hummingbird feeders on each side of the house and left birdseed on the fence.

Since she lived below the Pacific Flyway, Sollock encountered birds migrating from central Mexico to Alaska or on the opposite journey.  She decided to learn more about the visiting birds and described herself as "largely self-taught."

After moving to Santee and settling in near Mission Trails Regional Park, Sollock trained to be a trail guide in 2001. She currently shares her home with a 26-year-old Senegal parrot and teaches "Birding Basics," a free 90-minute class held in the park's visitors' center on the last Saturday of each month except November and December.

At every class, she's asked about the difference between crows and ravens. A raven’s length is from 22 to 24 inches; the birds are larger than crows. The crow is dull black. The raven is glossy black and has "a bump on its nose," said Sollock. The crow's tail is straight; the raven's wedge-shaped tail is visible when the bird is flying.

Crows congregate in large groups, and colonies show up at dusk in big trees and parks. Ravens are more solitary. They're usually seen in pairs; however, larger groups sometimes gather at park locations, including Fortuna Mountain (to the north of Cowles Mountain).

Sollock's Santee property is also the site of what she called "family reunions." Approximately every six to eight weeks, about 25 to 30 ravens "get together for one week. They dance, carry on, and roll over on the boulder," she said.

Sollock has a theory about what motivates ravens to be more sociable: "When babies fledge, they leave the nest and move to the property next to mom and dad. At the reunion, they meet their new Uncle Bob [and] their new cousin Martha."  

For information about "Birding Basics," click here or or call 619-668-3281.

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