You might be enjoying a sunny day outside. A large, blackbird is flying over your head and lands on the roof of your house. Will this lead you to wonder whether it’s a crow or a raven? With a bit of practice, you can tell a crow from a raven.
Now the biggest question is what the differences are between crows and ravens. Ravens are larger, as around the same size as a red-tailed hawk. Crows, on the opposite, are smaller, as the same size as a pigeon. Ravens travel in pairs or solo, while crows travel in flocks. Besides, crows’ tails are fan-shaped, but ravens’ tails are wedge-shaped.
Apart from that, crows and ravens differ in many other characteristics, including feathers, beaks, throats, wings, weight, lifespan, call, habitat, diet, flight, and more. In this article, we’re going to discuss key differences and some additional ones between these birds.
So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Related Blog: Can Crows Swim? [Full blog here]
Crows vs Ravens: At a Glance
|Characteristics||American Crows||Common Ravens|
|Color||Black||Black (minor hints of gray and brown)|
|Size||16” – 21” long; as the same size as a pigeon||21” – 26” long; as almost the same size as red-tailed hawks|
|Feathers||Less shiny, may have lighter markings||Shiny and wet sheen|
|Beak||Straighter and slimmer; no tuft of hair on top of the beak||Larger, curvier, and sharper; a tuft of hair on top of the beak.|
|Throat||Narrower; smooth, almost hair-like feathers||Wider; well-developed ruff of feathers|
|Wings||Straight, splayed, and blunt; around 30 inches long wingspan||Pointed, crooked wrist wings; around 45 inches long wingspan|
|Tail||Fan-shaped; straight||Wedge-shaped; like a triangle or diamond|
|Weight||Around 20 oz. (1.25 lbs. or 0.57 kg.)||Around 40 oz. (2.5 lbs. or 1.13 kg.)|
|Call||Higher-pitched, short Caw- Caw; nasal||Lower-pitched, long Gronk-Gronk, Croooaak|
|Behavior||More social; large flocks or family groups||Less social; Pairs or solo|
|Habitat||Close to human settlements, like cities, suburbs, rural and agricultural areas.||Remote and quiet areas, including mountains, grasslands, forests, and deserts|
|Diet||More likely to scavenge from garbage||More likely to hunt small mammals and insects|
|Flight||Flaps more; silent flapping||Soars more; gliding, soaring with a swishing sound|
|Lifespan||7 to 8 years||10 to 15 years|
|Migration||Partially migratory species||Not included in migratory bird species|
|Breeding||They help others in breeding||They don’t help others in breeding|
|Friendliness||Much friendlier to humans||Less friendly to humans|
|Intelligence||Clever, intelligent, recognize human faces||Cunning, playful, and involved|
|Strength||Less strong, but defeat ravens in flocks||Stronger than crows but defeated in a fight|
Crows vs Ravens: Key Differences
Although crows and ravens look similar, a wide variety of characteristics are out there to tell them apart. In this section, we’re going to talk about the key differences between these two birds. Read below to get a solid understanding of these birds.
Crows, particularly American crows, are entirely black in color as well as their beaks and legs. However, when these birds are molting, you can spot a slight gray hint or a hint of purple and green. But, that is the reflection of light or indicates other crow species.
On the other hand, common ravens are also black with their beaks and legs. That’s why people get confused in telling crows and ravens apart. You can also spot a slightly brown and grey hint on the ravens’ body due to direct sunlight. A slightly off-color on their legs is also noticeable.
This is the biggest difference between crows and ravens. American crows are about 16 to 21 inches long, slightly bigger than standard pigeons. The wingspan is approximately 30 inches. Common ravens, in contrast, are 21 to 26 inches long, as big as red-tailed hawks.
The wingspan of the ravens is around 45 inches. This means crows are about half of the ravens in size. So, it’s clear that American crows are smaller than common ravens. However, you can find large crows and diminutive ravens, but in different species.
Ravens have highly glossed plumage with sometimes a wet or oily sheen, showing iridescent purples, blues, and greens. They also have fluffier feathers around their head, ear, and throat, which you may not find in crows. The under-the-neck feathers are scruffier.
On the contrary, crows have less glossed plumage with iridescent blue and purple in sunlight. They also feature whiskery feathers around the beak, but not similar to those of ravens. When it comes to neck feathers, they appear smoother.
In our opinion, the best way to differentiate these two birds is by looking at their beaks. Compared to the beaks of ravens, crows’ beaks are straighter and slimmer. However, ravens’ beaks are bigger, thicker at the top, and curvier to the end. They’re pretty sharper too.
The beaks of ravens are cylindrical. They’re heavier and much pointier than those of crows. Both crows and ravens have bristles under their beaks. However, the bristles of ravens are noticeably longer than those of crows.
American crows have smooth, almost hair-like feathers on the throat. On the other hand, common ravens have a well-developed ruff of feathers, called hackles. Ravens can articulate the feathers for showing a wide variety of behaviors.
In terms of throat size, the throats of crows are narrower than those of ravens. The differences between these two species’ throat feathers are obvious even if their feathers are relaxed. Remember, we’re not judging the difference in crown shape.
You can tell a common raven from an American crow by differentiating their wings. The wings of crows are straight, splayed, and blunt, while ravens have pointed, crooked wrist wings, with long fingers with more slotting between them.
As we’ve already stated, the wingspan of crows is around 30 inches, while ravens have 45 inches long wings. When in the sunlight, the wings of crows look purple with green-tinted. On the other side, the ravens’ wings look shiny with a purple or blue tint.
Another best way of differentiating these two birds is identifying the dissimilarities in their tails. American crows have fan-shaped tails, all fairly even in length. You can see their fan-shaped tails when they’re in flight.
On the other hand, common ravens have longer middle feathers in their tails, looking like a wedge, a triangle, or a diamond. When they’re flying overhead, you’ll be able to get the best look at the shape of their tails.
When it comes to weighing crows and ravens, it’s apparent that ravens are bulkier than crows because ravens are larger in all comparison. Approximately, crows weigh 20 oz. (1.25 lbs. or 0.57 kg.), while the weight of ravens could be around 40 oz. (2.5 lbs. or 1.13 kg.).
Typically, ravens live more than crows. The expected lifespan of common ravens ranges from 10 to 15 years. On the other hand, American crows live around 7 to 8 years. However, it can be different in various crow and raven species.
You can easily distinguish American crows and common ravens by their calls. Both crows and ravens have as many as 250 different sounds, including clicks, coos, rattles, and knocks. The normal call of crows is higher-pitched caw, caw. They can also call loud caw or awk.
Listen to the calls of crows:
However, the normal call of ravens is a deep, lower-pitched hollow croak. They can make a wide variety of sounds, including Gronk-Gronk, Croooaak, Cr-r-ruck, Tok, and Wonk-Wonk. In other words, crows caw and purr, but ravens croak and scream.
Listen to the calls of ravens:
American crows are more social than common ravens. Crows always love to interact with each other in large flocks known as murders, roosting and foraging in numbers. Remember, crows walk, but ravens act something like walking and hopping altogether.
On the other hand, common ravens are more cunning than American crows. They always like to stay in pairs or solo. You might see a number of ravens around a circus or landfill, but they’re young ones who are still looking for their mates.
Crows prefer being close to human settlements, like cities, suburbs, rural and agricultural areas, and other populous places. In contrast, ravens prefer remote and quiet areas. They like to stick to the world’s wilder parts, including mountains, grasslands, forests, and deserts.
What do you see on the map? Crows occupy most American states. However, they’re not readily available in the southwestern part of the United States. Ravens, on the other hand, are not found in most of the Midwestern and throughout the southeastern part of the country.
Both crows and ravens are opportunistic omnivores, feeding on everything from carrion to insects. These birds also consume a large proportion of invertebrates and garbage. They even hunt small mammals and insects. From other birds’ nests, they pilfer eggs and nestlings.
Since crows live close to human settlements, they consume more invertebrates and garbage than ravens do. On the other side, ravens eat more meat than crows do because ravens live in remote areas where they can easily find many dead animals.
Another way to differentiate crows and ravens is how they fly. Typically, crows flap, while ravens soar. Crows flap their wings faster but silently. On the other hand, ravens flap their wings slower, but more soaring than crows.
When ravens are in flight, they look like a small hawk as they soar. Regardless of soaring, ravens can show aerobatic displays, such as flying in loops, diving, rolling, and catching twigs midair. Common ravens can even fly upside-down.
Crows vs Ravens: Additional Differences
Between American crows and common ravens, some additional differences are out there in their migration, breeding, intelligence, friendliness, and strength. If you’re an enthusiast birder, you should know these differences to identify these birds more easily.
American crows are partially migratory species. Around 70% of western crows and 90% of eastern crows migrate in winter up to 500 kilometers, particularly for breeding. Also, northern crows travel south to search for suitable food sources.
When it comes to common ravens, they stick to the places where they’re year-round residents. This means they don’t usually migrate. However, some ravens in the northern part of the United States wanted south after in the late fall for a short period.
Ravens are not cooperative breeders. You may not spot a trio of ravens anywhere. In opposite, crows are cooperative breeders. If you find a nest with more than a couple of birds contributing to breeding, it’s definitely a crow’s nest.
Once the crow family has their offspring, they collaborate to raise the young, feeding them with the right food and protecting them from potential predators. Overall, they work together to solve any issue, which you may not find in a raven pair.
Both American crows and common ravens are extremely intelligent in working things out and solving issues. For example, both birds can recognize and memorize human faces. However, subtle differences are out there between these two bird species.
Crows know how to steal food by unlatching containers. Some crow species can even mimic human words like parrots. On the other hand, ravens are cunning, playful, and involved. Since they don’t live close to humans, they may not know how to steal food like crows.
Both crows and ravens are suspicious to humans. They don’t usually get too close to people. In fact, they see people as a source of food but a cause for concern. Comparatively, crows are friendlier to humans than ravens as crows live close to human settlements.
If you want to attract crows in your garden, read our article on attracting crows to your yard. Many people view these blackbirds as evil spies or bad omens. If you’re one of them, trying to prevent these blackbirds, our article on getting rid of crows is recommended.
As common ravens are bigger, you may think that they dominate slightly smaller American crows. However, this doesn’t happen in nature. Once a crow and a raven fight each other, a group of crows joins the crow. Therefore, the raven loses the face-off.
Have you ever wondered why crows attack ravens? Crows attack ravens to protect their nests, eggs, chicks, and food sources from larger ravens. Most of the time crows attack ravens. It’s quite hard to see a raven attacking a flock of crows.
Now that you know how to properly differentiate between crows and ravens, you won’t get confused next time you see one of them in your garden. Keep in mind that the differences between them may vary depending on species and regions.
However, we hope this versus guide will help you get a solid understanding of the differences between crows and ravens, particularly American crows and common ravens. If you find anything missing in this article, let us know below in the comment section.