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Well, we're sure they were black birds

Ah, controversy rears its dark head, more specifically the black heads of crows and ravens. A Since You Asked response in Monday's paper referred to crows that seem to congregate near Roxy Ann Peak on the east side of Medford. Local birder Jeff Tufts says, however, he's documented numerous ravens, but only handfuls of crows near the mountaintop. So, with a tip of the beak (of our cap), we offer Jeff's response:

While the general information about crows in Monday's (Dec. 15) Since You Asked column is spot on, the birds about which "Anonymous" inquired are almost certainly common ravens.

The elevation of Roxy Ann (even at its highest point) is not high enough to preclude the possibility of American crows being present, but it seems to be a territory that is "controlled" by ravens.

I've submitted several dozen bird sightings lists to eBird ( eBird.org ) from Roxy Ann since 2010, but only two of those lists include sightings of American crows (highest total was six). Virtually every list includes sightings of common ravens with totals as high as 40 or 50 birds on some occasions.

And, while crows may occasionally venture into the Roxy Ann area, it's extremely unlikely that large groups of them would be seen circling the peak as described by "Anonymous." Ravens, on the other hand, can be seen doing that frequently.

Interestingly, the area around Agate Lake (only a few miles from Roxy Ann Peak and about 2,000 feet lower in elevation) is also dominated by ravens. Rogue Valley Audubon Society has been conducting monthly bird surveys at Agate since February of this year, and ravens have been seen during each count. Crows have been recorded only once, and that was in an agricultural field adjoining the lake.

As noted, American crows and common ravens each inhabit the Rogue Valley year-round in significant numbers, but there seem to be certain areas where the ravens are dominant. They are bigger, stronger, and better fliers than crows, and, in any given territory, they assert their superiority if they so choose.

— Jeff Tufts, Medford

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.