What Are the Differences Between Crows and Ravens?

Crows and ravens can appear to be very similar, making it a challenge for some to know the difference between the two birds.  Both birds are completely black and both species are commonly found across North America.  Here are some ways you can determine the difference between the common raven (Corvus corax) and the American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos).

Size: Raven Versus Crows

Ravens are about 2 1/2 times the size of crows. The raven has about a 3.5 to 4 feet wingspan and is around 24-27 inches from head to tail.  The crow is smaller, with a 2.5 feett wingspan and a length of about 17 inches.

Silhouettes of a raven (left) and crow (right.

Silhouettes of a raven (left) and crow (right).

Tail Feathers: Raven Versus Crows

The tail feathers of a raven are wedged shaped.  Crows, in contrast, have a fan-shaped tail.

Raven tail shape (left) and crow tail shape (right).

Raven tail shape (left) and crow tail shape (right).

Hackles

The ruff of feathers on the front a raven just below its neck are called hackles.

Closeup view of hackles on a common raven. Photo: NPS/Neal Herbert, public domain.

Closeup view of hackles on a common raven. Photo: NPS/Neal Herbert, public domain.

Crows have a smooth front.

Crows have a smooth front of feathers just below the beak.

Crows have a smooth front of feathers just below the beak.

Sounds

Crows make a sound that sounds like “caw” and purr.  Ravens sound more frog-like with a croaky call.

Crow call:

 

Raven call:

Populated Areas

Crows are well adapted to living in highly developed areas.  It’s very common to find crows living near people.  Ravens, in contrast, are very rare in populated areas.

Social Groups

Crows tend to form large groups while ravens tend to form pairs.  In fact, living as a group, known as and “unkindness” or “conspiracy,” has actually been found to increase stress levels in ravens.  A group of crows is known as a murder.

Flock of crows in a tree. Photo: Paul Sullivan, CC BY-ND 2.0

Flock of crows in a tree. Photo: Paul Sullivan, CC BY-ND 2.0

Take the Crow Versus Raven Quiz

Feeling like an expert, now?  Test your new skills by taking the Crow Versus Raven quiz.

See Also

You may also like...