I'm wondering for how long a raven can stay continuously airborne, if strained to do so? If it makes a difference, I'm mostly interested in the Common raven, Corvus corax. Are there for instance any information on long-distance dispersal (wind-blown individuals over sea?) that can be used to roughly estimate this? Information on other corvid species could also be interesting, as a rough proxy.

If you are wondering, my motivation for asking is the biblical story in Genesis 6–8 (the deluge of Noah). Here, Noah sends out a raven and a dove to look for land. From the story it appears as if the raven can stay airborne for a longer time than the dove, which returns to the ark to rest. Is there any realism in the claim that a raven can stay airborne for one or maybe even two weeks?

Some background from Genesis 8 (this translation):

After forty days, Noah opened the window he had made in the ark. He sent out the raven, and it departed. It went back and forth until the water had dried up from the land's surface. He then sent out the dove to see if the water had subsided from the land's surface. The dove could not find any place to rest its feet, and it returned to him, to the ark. There was still water over all the earth's surface. [Noah] stretched out his hand, and brought it to him in the ark. He waited another seven days, and once again sent the dove out from the ark. The dove returned to him toward evening, and there was a freshly-plucked olive leaf in its beak. Noah then knew that the water had subsided from the earth. He waited yet another seven days and sent out the dove [again]. This time it did not return to him any more.

So the raven couldn't find a place to land, and it flew around until it could do so. A week later, the dove still couldn't find a place to land, but a week later it could. Thus, either (a) the raven was flying around for more than a week (as much as two weeks) or (b) the raven could more readily land in a wet area than the dove. Can either of these be true?

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    $\begingroup$ This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a mythical story and not based any real observation or scientific speculation. $\endgroup$
    Oct 28, 2014 at 12:37
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    $\begingroup$ It is possible to edit the post to make a scientific question without religious/mythical connotations. $\endgroup$
    Oct 28, 2014 at 12:52
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    $\begingroup$ @WYSIWYG not sure if off-topic. Although the religious part is evident, I think the OP is asking whether such a raven could exists in reality (i.e. if biologically a raven could fly for such a long time), and the religious reference serves simply as background of why he/she is interested in the question. I think, anyway, the question can be improved by focusing on the scientific part- as you suggest. $\endgroup$
    – ddiez
    Oct 28, 2014 at 13:05
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    $\begingroup$ Quite apart from using a mythical story to ask a scientific question, I don't see what makes you think that the raven was flying around all that time. For all you know, and as seems more likely, it drowned. Could you edit your question, remove the biblical references and just ask something specific about an animal's behavior? $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Oct 28, 2014 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ @terdon, I could just ask "Can it be true that either a raven flies for more than a week straight or doesn't mind ground as wet as a dove minds?" but that is a very odd question absent the background. Note that my question as currently worded does ask something specific about an animal's behavior -- but does so with some background to indicate why I'm asking. $\endgroup$
    – msh210
    Oct 28, 2014 at 23:01

1 Answer 1


Can't be very sure about ravens but the maximum recorded flight duration is of Common Swift — 10 months. Alpine swifts also remain airborne for up to 6 months.

Pigeons can fly up to 1800km in a long flight. From this article (pubmed):

In the United States, the longest pigeon races involve flights of 1800 km and, because substantial financial rewards accrue to the owner of the fastest pigeon, there is severe selection for those pigeons that home the fastest.

Wikipedia article on pigeons says that they can fly at 80km/h but I suspect because the other wikipedia page on flight speeds says that average flight speed of peregrine falcon is 65-90km/h. So assuming that average speed of pigeon is 60km/h it should be able to fly for 30h. According to this paper, the speed with minimum power consumption is 8-9m/s (~30km/h). At this speed they should be able to fly for 60 hours. In the same paper it is estimated that the maximum continuous power output is ~10.5 W; if a pigeon has 11g of stored fat (per 400g body weight — assumptions from the same paper), and given the calorific value of fat — 38kJ/g, it can fly upto 38 × 11 ÷ 10.5 = ~40h. This means that the best trained ones can perhaps manage to fly for 2.5 days straight.

Now ravens are heavier (~3 times heavier) but are more aerodynamic and can fly faster. However, I guess they cannot perhaps fly 7 days straight.

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    $\begingroup$ Ah, but is that an African or European pigeon? $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Oct 28, 2014 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ @terdon I urge you to add that as an answer ;) $\endgroup$
    – jonsca
    Oct 28, 2014 at 22:20
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    $\begingroup$ @terdon In principle (if we assume no speciation events after the Flood), it could be any Columba species or even any other similar bird for which יונה was used as the closest term :) $\endgroup$
    – alephreish
    Oct 28, 2014 at 22:44
  • $\begingroup$ Who needs land? These birds spend 10 months of the year in flight $\endgroup$ Jun 27, 2019 at 14:06
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    $\begingroup$ @theforestecologist thanks. This seems like a recent report. I'll update. $\endgroup$
    Jun 27, 2019 at 14:15

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