Blackbird vs Crow vs Raven: Decoding Key Differences

Blackbirds, crows, and ravens are often mistaken for one another due to their similar appearances and overlapping habitats. However, upon closer inspection, you’ll find that each species has unique characteristics that set them apart. 

Crows and ravens are both members of the Corvid family, while blackbirds belong to a different family. You’ll find that these birds vary in size, with ravens being the largest, crows slightly smaller, and blackbirds the smallest among the three. 

Other differences include tail shape, vocalizations, and social behaviors: crows are known for forming larger groups, while ravens tend to travel in pairs. Meanwhile, blackbirds are more solitary in nature, often found in pairs or small flocks.

Key Takeaways:

  • These birds can be distinguished by their size, tail shape, and social behaviors
  • Crows and ravens belong to the Corvid family, while blackbirds are from a different family
  • Ravens are the largest, followed by crows, with blackbirds being the smallest of the trio

Blackbird vs Crow vs Raven: Physical Comparison

Size, Length, and Body Shape

When comparing blackbirds, crows, and ravens, it’s essential to look at their size, length, and body shape. Blackbirds are generally smaller than crows and ravens. Crows are medium-sized birds, while ravens are larger and more robust.

  • Blackbirds: Smaller size
  • Crows: Medium size
  • Ravens: Larger size, robust body

Read Next: Crow vs Hawk


The size and shape of a bird’s bill can help distinguish between these three species. Blackbirds have thinner, more delicate bills, while crows have stronger, thicker bills. Ravens have the largest and most robust bills, fitting their larger body size.

  • Blackbirds: Thin, delicate bills
  • Crows: Strong, thick bills
  • Ravens: Large, robust bills

Plumage and Color

Although all three birds are predominantly black, there are subtle differences in their plumage and color. Blackbirds have a glossy appearance with a hint of iridescence, while crows have an entirely black, matte appearance. Ravens also have black plumage, but it can have a slight blue or purple sheen.

  • Blackbirds: Glossy, slightly iridescent
  • Crows: Matte black
  • Ravens: Black with a blue or purple sheen


The eyes of these birds are another distinguishing characteristic. Blackbirds typically have dark eyes, while crows have lighter, gray or blue eyes. Ravens, on the other hand, have more vibrant, blue or green eyes.

  • Blackbirds: Dark eyes
  • Crows: Light gray or blue eyes
  • Ravens: Vibrant blue or green eyes


When observing the wings of these birds, you’ll notice that blackbirds have shorter, more rounded wings. Crows have longer, more pointed wings, while ravens have the longest wings with prominent, elongated feathers.

  • Blackbirds: Short, rounded wings
  • Crows: Longer, pointed wings
  • Ravens: Longest wings, elongated feathers


Lastly, examining the tails of these birds can help differentiate them. Blackbirds have relatively short, rounded tails, while crows sport medium-length, fan-shaped tails. Ravens have the longest tails, with a distinctive wedge shape.

  • Blackbirds: Short, rounded tails
  • Crows: Medium-length, fan-shaped tails
  • Ravens: Long, wedge-shaped tails

By paying attention to these physical characteristics, you can confidently distinguish between blackbirds, crows, and ravens.

Species and Classification

Family and Order

The birds you’re interested in, blackbirds, crows, and ravens, all belong to the same order, Passeriformes. This order is also known as perching birds or songbirds. However, they belong to different families. Crows and ravens are part of the Corvidae family, which consists of intelligent birds that can adapt to various environments. In contrast, blackbirds, such as brown-headed cowbirds, Brewer’s blackbirds, and common blackbirds, belong to the Icteridae family, featuring birds with a diverse range of sizes and colors.

Common Crows and Ravens

Crows and ravens have several species within their family. American crows and common ravens are the most widely recognized species in North America. Besides these, you may also come across Chihuahuan ravens and fish crows. Although American crows and common ravens look similar, they have distinct features that can help you differentiate between the two. For example, crows typically have a smaller beak and sleeker feathers compared to the ravens.

There are several subspecies of crows and ravens under the Corvidae family. Some variations include the Chihuahuan raven, which prefers desert regions, and the fish crow, known for its unique “uh-uh” call.

Species of Blackbirds

Blackbirds come in various species, such as the common blackbird, Brewer’s blackbird, brown-headed cowbird, and common grackle. These birds are found in different habitats and have unique features that set them apart. For instance, brown-headed cowbirds have a brown head and black body, while Brewer’s blackbirds display iridescent feathers that shimmer in the sunlight. In Europe, you may also come across starlings, which are similar to blackbirds but belong to a separate family, Sturnidae.

Remember, when identifying blackbirds, crows, and ravens, focus on their features such as size, shape, and coloring, as well as their habitat and call sounds. By mastering these aspects, you’ll be better equipped to distinguish between these fascinating species.

Geographical Distribution

North America

In North America, you can find different species of these black-colored birds. Crows, for instance, are widespread across the continent. They are cosmopolitan birds and can be encountered almost everywhere, except Antarctica, as per the information found here. Meanwhile, blackbirds are native to North America and can be found in various habitats. Some, like the red-winged blackbird, even have distinctive markings, such as red and yellow coloring on their wings, as mentioned here.

Ravens also have a wide distribution, but they are found more in the northern regions of the continent. Their impressive size distinguishes them from crows, with a length between 22-27 inches and a wingspan of approximately 45-56 inches. You can learn more about ravens’ sizes here.

Location and Habitat

When observing these birds, it’s essential to consider their preferred locations and habitats. Crows, which are adaptable and intelligent, can thrive in diverse environments, from forests to urban areas. They are omnivorous and can adjust their diet based on the surrounding resources.

Blackbirds, on the other hand, are more specific in their preferences. They tend to live in wooded areas, near wetlands, or open fields. Their diet primarily consists of seeds, insects, and fruit. Some species, like the brown-headed cowbird, have a distinct appearance that makes them easier to identify, as mentioned here.

Ravens lean towards more remote, wilder habitats. They are commonly found in forests and mountains, but they can also be spotted in rural areas or close to human settlements. Interestingly, ravens are not as likely to be found in urban environments as crows.

Each of these birds – the crow, blackbird, and raven – has unique preferences in terms of location and habitat. Recognizing their differences can help you identify them more effectively when birdwatching.

Diet and Foraging

Feeding Habits

When it comes to the diet of ravens, crows, and blackbirds, there are some differences you should be aware of. Ravens, being the largest of the three, have a more diverse diet and can eat a variety of food items. Primarily, they consume carrion, small mammals, insects, and plant materials such as seeds and berries. Their strong beaks make it easier for them to break open carcasses and access difficult-to-reach food.

On the other hand, crows are known for their flexible and opportunistic feeding habits. They eat a mix of insects, fruits, grains, and small mammals. Crows are also known to scavenge on roadkills and human food waste. Interestingly, both ravens and crows are known to store their food and use tools, such as sticks, to access hidden food sources.

Blackbirds have a slightly different diet. They primarily eat insects, worms, and other invertebrates. During colder months, their diet shifts to include fruits and seeds. These birds have slender beaks, allowing them to forage effectively for soil-dwelling invertebrates like earthworms.

Hunting and Scavenging

In terms of hunting and scavenging behavior, ravens and crows exhibit similar patterns. Both species are known to scavenge for food in urban environments, feasting on roadkill or discarded food from humans. They’re even known to follow predators to scavenge the remains of their kills. These intelligent birds have been observed making use of busy roads – dropping hard-shelled nuts to crack them open by passing vehicles.

Blackbirds, though adept at scavenging as well, primarily rely on their foraging skills for food. They can be found hopping on the ground, turning over leaves and pecking at the soil to search for their preferred prey, like worms and insects.

In conclusion, understanding the different diet and foraging habits of ravens, crows, and blackbirds can help you better identify and appreciate the unique behaviors of these fascinating birds.

Behavior and Communication

Social Behavior

In observing the social behavior of blackbirds, crows, and ravens, you’ll find some differences that can help you identify each species. Blackbirds typically live in pairs or small groups, with males being territorial during breeding season. On the other hand, crows are known for their tight-knit communities and congregate in larger groups known as “murders.” Ravens, while more solitary than crows, can also be found in small groups and share strong bonds, especially with their mating partners.

Vocalization and Calls

When it comes to vocalization, each of these birds has its own distinct sound:

  • Blackbirds: Their calls are melodic and pleasant, consisting of rich, warbling notes. Male blackbirds use these calls to attract mates and establish territories.
  • Crows: Recognized by their distinctive cawing sounds, crows communicate with a wide range of calls and are known for their complex vocal repertoire. You may often hear their loud “caw-caw” throughout the day or even during the night.
  • Ravens: These large birds have deeper and more guttural vocalizations compared to crows. Their unique calls include grunting, croaking, and knocking sounds. Ravens are also talented mimics and can imitate the calls of other birds or even human speech.

By paying attention to these variations in social behavior and vocalization, you can better differentiate between blackbirds, crows, and ravens. Remember to always observe these birds with respect and maintain a safe distance to avoid disturbing their natural habitats.

Breeding and Lifespan

Breeding and Nesting

When it comes to breeding, blackbirds, crows, and ravens have distinct nesting habits. While all these birds build nests, blackbirds prefer to construct them in densely vegetated areas such as marshes or wetlands. In contrast, crows and ravens often nest higher up in trees or on structures such as buildings and utility poles.

The nesting materials also vary among these species. Blackbirds use materials like grasses, twigs, and mud, forming a cup-shaped structure. On the other hand, crows and ravens use sticks, twigs, and leaves to create larger, more complex nests.

During the breeding season, blackbirds typically lay three to five eggs, while crows and ravens usually lay three to seven eggs. The incubation period ranges from 11-14 days for blackbirds and 16-21 days for crows and ravens.

Migration and Lifespan

Migration patterns differ among blackbirds, crows, and ravens. While blackbirds often migrate seasonally to find food and better nesting locations, crows and ravens are more likely to stay in the same general area throughout the year, depending on the availability of resources.

The lifespans of these birds also vary. Blackbirds may live up to eight years in the wild. In contrast, crows can live up to 20 years, and ravens have been known to live even longer, with some reaching 30 years of age.

To sum up, blackbirds, crows, and ravens exhibit unique breeding, nesting, migration, and lifespan characteristics. Understanding these differences can help you appreciate the diversity and adaptability of these fascinating species.


Is A Crow the same as a Blackbird?

No, crows and blackbirds are not the same. While they both have all-black plumages, they belong to different bird families. The crow is a part of the Corvidae family, whereas the blackbird is a member of the Icteridae family. Additionally, blackbirds, such as the Red-winged Blackbird, may have some distinct color markings like red and yellow on the bend of their wings 1.

What’s bigger: crow or raven or blackbird?

Among the three birds, the raven is the largest, followed by the crow, and then the blackbird. Ravens generally have a more massive build and a more massive bill than crows. While crows have a rounded or squared-off tail, ravens possess a wedge-shaped tail, which is more apparent during flight 2.

What is a flock of crows called?

A flock of crows is called a “murder.” This term dates back to folklore and superstitions that associated crows with witchcraft and death. While the exact origin of the term is unclear, referring to a group of crows as a murder has become an accepted term in the English language.

What is a flock of ravens called?

A flock of ravens is referred to as an “unkindness” or a “conspiracy.” Similar to the term “murder” for a group of crows, the origins of these terms are steeped in historical folklore and superstitions. Ravens, like crows, have often been connected to death and mysticism in various cultures, leading to these unusual names for their gatherings.



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