Crow vs Raven (This Is How You Tell Them Apart)

Crows and ravens are often mentioned together, and it’s easy to think they are the same. While they do belong to the same bird family, Corvidae, and share many similarities, there are key differences that set them apart. Knowing what distinguishes a crow from a raven can greatly enhance your understanding and appreciation of these fascinating birds.

Their physical attributes, habitats, behaviors, and vocalizations are just some of the factors that reveal the distinct characteristics between crows and ravens. To help you identify whether a bird you come across is a crow or a raven, we will delve into these differences and shed light on the unique traits of each species.

Key Takeaways:

  • Physical attributes and vocalizations can help distinguish between crows and ravens
  • Ravens and crows have different geographical populations and behavioral characteristics
  • Both species interact with humans and their environment in unique ways

Crow vs Raven: Physical Differences to Look For


When you compare crows and ravens, the first noticeable difference is their size. Ravens are generally larger than crows, with an average length of 63 centimeters (25 inches), and a weight of around 1.2 kilograms (2.6 pounds). In contrast, crows are smaller but still a significant size when compared to other birds.

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Bill Shape

Another factor that distinguishes these two bird species is their bill shape. Ravens have a thicker, more substantial bill than crows, which is better suited for tearing food apart. In comparison, crows have a more delicate, thinner bill designed for finer tasks like picking at seeds or insects.


In terms of their wings, you’ll find some differences too. When both birds are in flight, ravens display pointed wingtips, which form a wedge-like shape, while crows exhibit more rounded, curved wingtips. Additionally, ravens tend to have a more considerable wingspan than crows.


While observing their tails, you may notice ravens have a V-shaped or wedge-shaped tail, whereas crows have a fan-shaped tail. This distinction becomes more evident when the birds are in flight or when their tails are fully fanned out.

General Appearance

Furthermore, ravens typically have thicker necks and shaggier throat feathers in comparison to the sleeker neck and smoother feathers of crows. This difference in feather appearance gives ravens a somewhat more rugged and shaggy look, while crows maintain a smoother overall appearance.

Geographical Population and Range

When you want to distinguish American Crows and Common Ravens in North America, it’s essential to understand their geographical ranges. Their habitats can give you valuable clues to identify these similar birds accurately.

American Crows are known for their adaptability and can be found in various environments, both urban and rural. They thrive in cities and rural areas throughout most of the United States and are more widespread than their raven counterparts. These crows are most commonly found in the Northeast, Midwest, and even the Great Plains.

In contrast, Common Ravens usually prefer more remote areas and are typically found in the western part of the United States. Their range extends from the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean, and they can also be spotted near the Canadian border in the upper Midwest, in northern New England, and at higher elevations in Appalachia. Generally, ravens tend to be more solitary than crows and are often seen alone or in pairs.

Here are some key geographical differences between the two species:

  • American Crows: Widespread in cities and rural areas, most common in the Northeast, Midwest, and Great Plains.
  • Common Ravens: Predominantly in the western United States, with some occurrences at higher elevations and more remote areas in the Northeast and Appalachia.

Understanding the geographical distribution and population patterns of these two types of birds will help you become more confident in differentiating between American Crows and Common Ravens as you encounter them throughout North America.

Behavioral Characteristics

When observing crows and ravens, you’ll notice significant differences in their behavior. Crows tend to gather in larger groups, often referred to as flocks or communal roosts, while ravens prefer to travel in pairs. In a city like Seattle, it is common for you to see crows in urban settings near humans, while ravens may be more elusive.

You may find it interesting that crows are generally more social creatures. They appear to enjoy interacting with other crows and can sometimes even be seen mingling with humans. On the other hand, ravens are known to be more solitary and more cautious around humans.

One outstanding aspect of both crows and ravens is their high level of intelligence. They have been observed using tools, problem-solving, and even playing games. In some cases, they exhibit complex problem-solving behaviors that set them apart from other bird species.

Regarding their flight patterns, you’ll notice that ravens tend to soar in the air for extended periods, sometimes doing somersaults, giving them a unique airborne dance-like appearance. Crows, in contrast, don’t typically perform these aerial acrobatics.

Learning about the behavioral characteristics of crows and ravens helps you differentiate between these two intriguing bird species, further enhancing your understanding of their unique habits. Knowledge of their social groupings, intelligence levels, and interactions with humans can serve to enrich your birdwatching experience.

Diet and Scavenging

When it comes to their diets, both crows and ravens are opportunistic feeders, making the most of the resources available to them. As scavengers, they play an essential role in helping to clean up the environment.

Crows have an omnivorous diet, meaning they eat both plants and animals. Some of the food items you might find on a crow’s menu include:

  • Insects
  • Frogs
  • Mice
  • Eggs
  • Berries

Crows are also known for their intelligence and have the ability to use tools in their daily life, which helps them in their foraging activities. You might also see them digging through garbage, taking advantage of the leftovers humans leave behind.

Ravens, on the other hand, lean more towards a carnivorous diet. They typically feast on:

  • Small mammals
  • Reptiles
  • Insects
  • Other birds

Despite preferring meat, ravens will scavenge and eat carrion when the opportunity presents itself. Like crows, their diets depend heavily on their habitat and the ecosystem they inhabit.

Magpies, which are part of the same family as crows and ravens, also share similar dietary habits. They scavenge for food, with their diets consisting of insects, small mammals, seeds, and fruits.

In general, all of these birds play a vital role as scavengers in our ecosystems. They help reduce waste and maintain a balance in the environment by consuming a wide variety of food items, including garbage and carrion. They are resourceful creatures, always in search of the next meal to help them survive and thrive.

Sound Differences

When distinguishing between crows and ravens, one significant difference is the sound each bird makes. The call of a raven is typically a deep, throaty croak, while the sound of a crow is a higher-pitched cawing. By familiarizing yourself with these distinct vocalizations, you can better identify these two bird species.

The American Crow produces a clear-sounding “caw” as its primary call. This caw is even throughout and easily associated with crows. On the other hand, ravens broadcast their presence with a resonant “kraa” sound, which is noticeably lower in pitch and more guttural. Moreover, crows can also produce other vocalizations, such as rattling sounds, clicks, and bell-like notes that they use for communication purposes.

As you listen to these birds, you may notice that the calls of crows and ravens have individual distinctions. This means that family members and neighboring birds can potentially recognize each other even if they are not visible. The unique voice patterns of each bird provide a vital element in their communication, survival, and social behaviors.

In summary, pay close attention to the calls of these two birds as you try to differentiate between crows and ravens. Ravens emit a deeper, throaty croak, while crows produce a higher-pitched and more even cawing sound. Familiarizing yourself with these unique vocalizations will help you confidently identify these species in the wild.

Crow vs Raven Intelligence

When it comes to intelligence, both crows and ravens are highly-regarded among bird species. These intelligent birds belong to the Corvidae family, which includes other remarkable bird species such as magpies and blue jays. However, there are some differences in the cognitive abilities of crows and ravens that you might find fascinating.

Crows are known for their wide range of cognitive abilities, making them significantly smarter than ravens. Their impressive problem-solving skills and uncanny memory for human faces are just two examples of their intellectual prowess. Researchers have observed that crows are capable of understanding cause and effect, which is a hallmark of advanced reasoning.

Ravens, on the other hand, aren’t far behind when it comes to intelligence. They are considered slightly smarter than crows by some, but often perform similarly in intelligence tests. Their intelligence is revealed through their resourcefulness, adaptability, and social behaviors. They are also known to comprehend and establish social hierarchies among themselves, showcasing their ability to learn from and interact with other ravens.

In comparing the intelligence of these two birds, one might say that crows excel at tasks that require individual problem-solving, while ravens are more adept in social settings. This subtle difference speaks to their unique ways of navigating and adapting to their environments. It’s important to recognize the incredible intellect of both crows and ravens, as understanding their respective abilities can provide valuable insights into their behaviors and interactions within their natural habitats.

Various Species of Crows and Ravens

Crows and ravens belong to the same family, Corvidae, and share many similarities. However, they are different species with a few distinctive features. In this section, you’ll learn about some of the key differences and characteristics of the American Crow, Common Raven, and Chihuahuan Raven.

The American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) is a widespread species across North America. They are intelligent birds with glossy black feathers and a fan-shaped tail. When it comes to their size, they are smaller than ravens but larger than most songbirds. You’ll commonly find these birds in urban and suburban areas, as well as open habitats such as fields and forests.

Common Ravens (Corvus corax) are known for their large size, and they are often considered to be the largest species of crow. Their distinctive features include a thicker bill, shaggy throat feathers, and a wedge-shaped tail. Preferring more isolated habitats, you can find them in mountainous regions, forests, and deserts. These birds are highly adaptable and also demonstrate remarkable intelligence.

Chihuahuan Ravens (Corvus cryptoleucus) are notably found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. This species is smaller than the Common Raven but still larger than the American Crow. Chihuahuan Ravens have a slightly more slender body and a comparatively smaller bill. Their preferred habitat includes arid grasslands and desert regions.

In summary, the species within the Corvidae family showcase noteworthy intelligence and adaptability. While they share some similarities, it’s important to recognize the distinct features and traits of the American Crow, Common Raven, and Chihuahuan Raven. Comparing their sizes, physical characteristics, and preferred habitats can help you better understand these fascinating birds.

Relation with Human and Urban Environment

In today’s world, humans share their urban spaces with a variety of wildlife, including the intelligent and adaptable crow and raven species. These birds have learned to thrive in cities and make the most of the resources available to them.

Crows and ravens have adapted well to urban environments, where they can often be seen perching on rooftops or foraging for food in garbage cans. Due to the vast amount of waste generated by humans, these birds have a steady food source. In fact, their problem-solving skills have enabled them to adapt to life in the city better than many other bird species.

Like humans, these birds are highly social beings and form tight-knit communities to survive in the bustling urban areas. They work together to find food, protect their young, and share valuable information with one another. While crows and ravens are resilient, they’re also sensitive to changes in their surroundings, making them a good indicator of the overall health of the ecosystem.

As they live in close proximity, interactions between humans and these birds occur regularly. Generally, these birds maintain a harmonious relationship with humans. However, due to their quick problem-solving abilities, they are sometimes considered a nuisance, especially when it comes to getting into garbage or outsmarting attempts to keep them away from certain areas.

Despite their occasional conflicts, it’s important to recognize and appreciate the ecological role that crows and ravens play in urban environments. They help maintain a balance in the ecosystem by consuming waste, controlling insect populations, and scavenging carcasses, which aids in maintaining cleanliness in the city.

In conclusion, as both crows and ravens continue to adapt and thrive in human-dominated cities, it’s crucial for you to understand their ecological roles and appreciate their unique intelligence within our urban landscapes.


Is a crow the same family as a raven?

Yes, both crows and ravens belong to the same family, called Corvidae. Although they share a family, they are different in many ways, such as size, appearance, and behavior. Ravens are generally larger than crows, and they have thicker bills and wedge-shaped tails. On the other hand, crows have fan-shaped tails and exhibit more social behavior, often being found in large flocks.

Crow vs raven symbolism

Crows and ravens have been widely featured in mythology, folklore, and literature throughout history. They are often associated with various symbolic meanings. In many cultures, crows represent transformation, intelligence, and adaptability. Ravens, on the other hand, can symbolize creation, wisdom, and prophetic insight. In some belief systems, ravens are considered messengers or even a connection to the spirit world.

What is a flock of ravens called?

A group or flock of ravens is referred to as an “unkindness” or a “conspiracy.” These unusual terms stem from the historical belief that ravens often conspired together, acting as omens of bad luck or misfortune.

What is a group of crows called?

A group of crows is known as a “murder.” This intriguing term comes from folklore, where a murder of crows was believed to be a bad omen, signifying impending doom or death. Remember, though crows and ravens belong to the same family, they have different group names and are distinct in several aspects, including size, appearance, and behavior.

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