Very large, adult length up to 69 cm, mass 689 to 1,625 g. Plumage entirely glossy black with relatively long pointed wings, wedge-shaped tail, throat with elongated feathers commonly referred to as "hackles" and a large chisel-like bill. Female is somewhat smaller (Boarman and Heinrich 1999). See Heinrich (1994) for information on distinguishing juveniles and adults using plumage characteristics.
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
Western Hemisphere Range
Broad range of habitats: boreal, conifer, and deciduous forests; tundra; prairies and grasslands; isolated settlements, towns, and cities; deserts; sea coasts and islands; agricultural fields; Arctic ice floes; and the highest mountains. It is one of the most widespread naturally occurring birds in the world (Boarman and Heinrich 1999). Birds descend into valleys in the winter (Davis 1961, Skaar 1969).
Its diverse diet includes arthropods (even scorpions), amphibians, reptiles, birds (adults, chicks, and eggs), small mammals, carrion, grains, buds, and berries (Boarman and Heinrich 1999).
Single brood per season. Clutch ranges from 3 to 7 eggs (Boarman and Heinrich 1999). In the Fortine area, flying young have been seen as early as June 8. Egg dates are probably similar to those in Jackson Hole, early April to mid-June (Johnsgard 1986).