Dwarf Ravens kill and eat a Spotted Thicknee

Undocumented behavior of the Dwarf Raven or Somali Crow


  • Peter S Wairasho National Museums of Kenya




Dwarf Ravens kill and eat a Spotted Thicknee

The Dwarf Raven or Somali Crow Corvus edithae is an endemic resident in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somali, Kenya and SE Sudan (C Hillary Fry & Stuart Keith et al. 2000). In Kenya they are locally found mostly in the North from around Kapedo, Laisamis, Mado Gashi and Wajir areas. These birds belong to the Corvidae family. They are medium to large passerine birds. They are conspicuous, bold, inquisitive and highly adaptable. As a family they occupy a wide range of habitats including forest, woodland, grassland, tundra, desert and cliffs but more often around human habitation (C Hillary Fry & Stuart Keith et al. 2000).

These species in particular inhabits deserts, semi-deserts, arid plains, dry savannas and open thorn bush from sea level to usually around 2000 m ASL (C Hillary Fry & Stuart Keith et al. 2000). Their general behavior is not well documented but are known to be solitary or in pairs and in flocks of up to 100 in the non-breeding season. They are usually fearless and aggressive.

Their food consists of small ground-dwelling animals, carrion, and some plants, also bird eggs, tick and lice (C Hillary Fry & Stuart Keith et al. 2000) and largely considered to be scavengers. So while at Turkana in May 2018 I was surprised to witness a small group of the species behave like raptors in pursuit of their prey. A murder of three Dwarf Ravens landed about 50 m from where I was standing, and begun rummaging through the small dry bushes around. I had not even taken much notice of two fully grown Spotted Thicknees (Burhinus capensis) nearby, thanks to their cryptic plumage blending well with the sun bleached volcanic rocks spewed all over this vast arid region interspersed by short dry grass and bushes. Before long I noticed something emerge fast from the short bushes apparently disturbed by the ravens. It was a young Spotted Thicknee, not fully grown but just as tall as the parents who were close by. The ravens actively pursued the young Thicknee, caught it and relentlessly attacked it. The vicious attack was briefly interrupted when an Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus landed nearby and again when a White-headed Vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis also landed nearby. The parents of the young Thicknee watched from a safe distance away and made no attempts to rescue the fledgling. Eventually the murder of crows killed the Thicknee before proceeding to dismember it and devour it.  We could not find other records of Corvids actively hunting and killing live prey but it is likely desert dwelling corvids will often resort to catching live prey (of any taxa)


Many thanks to Dr. Peter Njoroge for his advice in the presentation of this record.


Fry, C. H., Keith, S. and Urban, E.K. (Eds) (2000). The Birds of Africa Vol. VI Academic Press, London.

Checklist of the Birds of Kenya, Fourth Edition, OS-c EANHS September 2009


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How to Cite

Wairasho, P. S. (2019). Dwarf Ravens kill and eat a Spotted Thicknee: Undocumented behavior of the Dwarf Raven or Somali Crow. Biodiversity Observations, 10, 10.7:1–8. https://doi.org/10.15641/bo.v10i0.602