A hen to to chicken as ?? is to crow

None of these online sites mention anything about a raven being a female crow


This Cornell University site - http://www.birds.cornell.edu/crows/crowfaq.htm - and this site by the American Society of Crows and Ravens - http://www.ascaronline.org/crowfaq.htm - both answer the question “What is the difference between a crow and a raven?” without any mention of a raven being a female crow.

I was at an overlook at Canyon de Chelly National Monument; fantastic view with lots of turkey vultures riding the updrafts. A woman standing next to me turned to her friend and said “Quoth the raven, nevermore…”

I said, “Oh, those are vultures, not ravens.”

This set her off for some reason and she said “No, in the southwest, they are called ravens in the Native American culture. Where did you get your information?”

I didn’t bother getting into it with her. The next morning we took a canyon tour and I asked our (Native American) guide, pointing out a vulture, “Do you call those birds ravens?” He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “No, those are vultures.”

If raven is the female of a crow, why isn’t the noun feminine ?

“I saw a raven this morning. She was perching on a rock”. Does it sound right ?

Does “he” sound any better in that sentence? I’d just use “it.”

Not to mention that frequently there is a difference in name associated with age, and state of sexual intactness [capon is a gelded chicken frex] as well as on the table as opposed to running around in a field. You can thank the Anglo-Saxons and Normans for that. [I seem to remember the food names tend towards the norman, and the running around in the field seem to be Anglo Saxon, pig vs pork [pig anglo saxon, pork from norman french porc] and there is a whole slew of age related naming [colt, foal, yearling and so forth]

Then there are group names [murder of crow, flock of sheep, herd of cow and so on.]

And as an odd question, what does a professional ornithologist do for money? I have this mental image of one running up to someone wondering to another what that bird over there is … telling them the name and habits, and holding out a hand for money…:dubious::smack:

Neither does the Oxford English Dictionary, universally regarded as the most comprehensive dictionary of the English language, have any mention of the word “raven” meaning “female crow”, nor do any of its dozens of citations appear to use the word in this sense. (Sometimes it is used as a synonym for “crow”, but never a specifically female one.)

**A hen to to chicken as ?? is to crow **

…as a writing desk is to a crow. Then ask your friend why a raven is like a writing desk.


Interestingly, there is tendency in birds for the generic name to be the same as that for the female, whereas in mammals the generic term often refers to the male.

Cases in which the generic term is also the name for the female:

duck (generic), drake (male), duck (female)
goose (generic), gander (male), goose (female)
falcon (generic), tiercel (male), falcon (female).

The generic is the same as the name for the male:

dog (generic), dog (male), bitch (female)
lion (generic), lion (male), lioness (female)
tiger (generic), tiger (male), tigress (female)

Distinct names for both male and female:

chicken (generic), rooster, cock (male), hen (female)
swan (generic), cob (male), pen (female)
horse (generic), stallion (male), mare (female)
fox (generic), vixen (female) dog fox (male)

See my Staff Report on Why do we eat “beef” and “pork” rather than “cow” and “pig”?

The same as any other scientist: do research and publish scientific articles. I also have done consulting work doing surveys of birds to establish baseline data for dam or oil projects or for monitoring programs. I also publish books on birds including field guides.

That actually sounds interesting … I can remember helping some canadian friends fishing back in the early 70s when they were doing an impact study on a hydro plant. If the weather is nice, beats being stuck in an office staring at walls for inspiration :smiley:

I can see how he might have pulled that out of his ass. Because ravens and crows are similar-looking birds (at least to those of us laymen who wouldn’t know the difference), and Raven is commonly used as a female name in humans. Plus the word has somewhat of a feminine aura about it in general (e.g. Poe’s eponymous poem).

The bird in the poem is a male.

Quite. See the paragraph beginning “But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only…”


The Northern Raven is a much larger, heavier, and powerful bird than any species of crow. Given that in most species of birds and mammals males are larger than females, if you saw them side by side you would guess the raven was the male.

The term “raven-haired” is more commonly applied to women, but who knows how this guy came by the idea.

But the poem is about a woman (Lenore). I’m just positing how the guy might have come up with his theory. We already know it’s wrong.

That, and “Tell me what thy lordly name is…”. Lord, not lady.

And Colibri, I suspect that the reason most bird names default to the same form as the female is that the females are more economically important, due to the eggs they lay. Compare to Bos taurus, important for its milk, and for which the general name (in so far as there is one) is “cow”.

Although British birds aren’t the most showy we do, in fact, have a number of common species with distinct male/female variation – robins, various finches, mallard ducks for example. The principle that, in some bird species, females that sit eggs are drably ccamouflaged and males do the sexual display thing is quite apparent.