Fossil range: Middle Miocene to Recent
Distribution map of the Corvidae.
Corvidae is a cosmopolitan family of oscine
passerine birds that contains the crows,
treepies, choughs and nutcrackers. The
common English name used is corvids (more
technically) or the crow family (more in-
formally), and there are over 120 species.
The genus Corvus, including the crows and
ravens, makes up over a third of the entire
They are considered the most intelligent
of the birds having demonstrated self-
awareness in mirror tests (European Mag-
pies) and tool making ability (Crows)—skills
until recently regarded as solely the province
of humans and a few other higher mammals.
They are medium to large in size, with strong
feet and bills, rictal bristles and a single
moult each year (most passerines moult
Corvids are found worldwide except for
the tip of South America and the polar ice
caps. The majority of the species are found
in tropical South and Central America, south-
ern Asia and Eurasia, with fewer than 10 spe-
cies each in Africa, Australasia and North
America. The genus Corvus has re-entered
Australia in relatively recent geological pre-
history, with five species and one subspecies
there (see crows).
Rufous Treepie, Dendrocitta vagabunda
Over the years there has been much dis-
agreement on the exact evolutionary relation-
ships of the corvid family and their relatives.
What eventually seemed clear was that cor-
vids are derived from Australasian ancestors
and from there spread throughout the world.
Other lineages derived from these ancestors
evolved into ecologically diverse, but often