A hen to to chicken as ?? is to crow

What is the name of a female crow?

A guy across the office is loudly stating that a female crow is known as a raven. He admits that there is another species - similar to crows, known as ravens - but still claims that female crows are “ravens”

I wish to prove to him that this is not the case. Wikipedia does not have an answer, and is an unreliable source in any case.

I have found from dubious sources (yahoo answers, for example) that a male crow is a cock and the female a hen, but no cite.

Not all animals have specific male and female variants of their names. Female birds in general are hens. (but the male is a cock, not a crow - they’re both crows)

He should be able to back it up then, with some kind of proof.

He should indeed, but is not. Hence I feel obliged to prove him wrong.

This is just plain wrong.

For starters there isn’t a species of crow and a species of raven. There are dozens of birds in each category. N0or are the categories in any way natural. Many crows are much more closely related to some ravens than they are to other crows, and vice versa.

In order to “prove to him that this is not the case” all you need to do is show him the Wikipedia articles on crow and raven. There is no mention of such a concept there. At that stage the onus is on him to provide some evidence for his belief.

Alternatively, or additionally, you could simply tell him that female crows are called buffaloes. “Admit” that there is another species known as buffaloes but insist that female crows are “buffaloes”. Then ask him to prove that you are wrong. Obviously this is a situation where you can not prove a negative.

If he is in any way rational he will see how ludicrous such a proposition is, and that he has no reason at all for his belief.

As far as what crows *are *called, I have seen the males called Jacks and the females simply referred to as hens, but there’s no reason to believe these are widespread terms.

I’m hardly going to argue taxonomy - the terms “crow” and “raven” are reasonably clear as groups of different species within the genus Corvus, we only get crows here (the Pied Crow, Corvus albus) and the only ravens commonly known in the office are those guarding the Tower of London (Corvus corax).

I appreciate that the onus is on my colleague to prove his hypothesis. However, as I am the one claiming he is wrong, he is calling me on it.

Do you, perhaps, have a cite for naming a female crow a “hen”? Even if that is not a widespread term, it strikes me as far more likely to appear in literature.

Suppose you find a cite that a female crow is called a hen:

You: It’s called a hen. Here’s a cite.
Him: Well it’s also called a raven.
You: …

The burden is on him to provide a cite that anyone but him, and maybe his family, calls female crows ravens.

And by the way, a chicken can be male or female. The male of farmed land animals are more likely to be butchered young than the females, but that depends on how much need there is for breeders/egg-layers.

Just tell him to look up ‘raven’ in a dictionary. If it meant ‘female crow’, it would be defined somewhere.

If that doesn’t work, try smashing your head against the wall, because it will be as fruitful as any argument.

Or smashing his head against a wall.

Then you can crow about it.

Just loudly inquire back, “Cite?”

No female variant. Generally, the male vs. female designations come about when the distinction is iportant or obvious. In the case of roosters/cocks/hens, the difference is obvious and needs to be made for good farm management. Ditto for cow/bull, sow/boar, mare/stallion/gelding etc. Even in hunting, it’s a good idea to understand the distinction between a buck and a doe or a bull moose and a cow; it’s especially important to know which one will attack you without provocation and which will run away.

Notice the distinction - moose are late to the game in English, so we simply adapt existing terminology. The original distinctions made their way into English when they were important parts of everyday life. There was no need or reason (or easy way) to distinguish between male and female of the crow, raven, gull, tern, eagle, hawk, or many other wild bird families; so the best we can do is adapt our existing terminology. Even where the male displays distinctive “beautiful plumage” (while pining for the fjords) we often do not have distinguishing names between the sexes (likely because a lot of these types of “male display” birds are not common to Britain?)

AFAIK, either gender of crow is reknowned for the quality or quantity of their crowage.

This isn’t particularly relevant to the question of what to call the female of the various crow species. There isn’t a single species of hog either, and many of those species called hogs are only remotely related to each other, yet the male and female of them are still referred to pretty consistently as boars and sows.

I suspect this guy reads the SDMB.

Here is your cite


Wikipedia is about as reliable as established print encyclopedias. Wikipedia itself even has an article about its reported reliability; if you don’t believe what’s summarized there you can always read the 197 supporting references yourself.

As I general rule in ornithology, a male bird is referred to as a cock and a female as a hen, so this is correct. The exceptions are mainly domesticated species (drake/duck, gander/goose) and species used in falconry (a male falcon is a tercel or tiercel). There are no specific terms for male and female crows (or ravens) that I have ever heard of (and I’m a professional ornithologist). This is, however, such general knowledge that it may be difficult to find a specific cite.

The proper response to this is derisive laughter. The contention that a female crow is called a raven is simply moronic. It’s like claiming a female coyote is called a wolf.

Bet him $20 he can’t find a dictionary that defines raven as a female crow.

Just out of curiousity, would you consider (as an ornithologist) anything wrong with calling a male duck a cock, or a female a hen? I guess I’m asking if these are technical terms, or just adapted colloquial terms.

I would say they are adapted colloquial terms. In the scientific literature you will mostly see birds just referred to as male or female. I don’t think anyone would ever refer to a male duck as a cock.

Cock and hen are occasionally used, especially in less formal literature. And sometimes “hen-plumaged”, is to refer to males of certain species which resemble females in plumage, when related species show a difference between male and female plumage. (Or conversely, “cock-plumaged” for females that resemble males.)

Although there is no technical distinction between crows and ravens as groups, I wouldn’t say they are “one and the same thing.” Individual species are referred to as ravens and crows.

I could only find one reference to female crows as hens, and that was in.the context of breeding them. I expect if they were popular as pets, we’d have terms for them, or we’d be more comfortable using hen and cock.