In North America, if you are enjoying a sunny day outside and you find a large black bird sitting on a tree nearby, there’s a high chance that you will get confused wondering if that bird is a crow or raven.
Crows and ravens are those birds that seem alike but are not the same species. These jet-black color birds look similar and belong to the same family, but they have distinctive traits that make them different.
American crows and ravens have a huge difference in their sizes. Ravens are larger than American crows, having a height of 21”- 26”. However, an American crow being smaller is barely a little larger than pigeons with a height of 16”-21”. Their size difference is apparent enough to be observed from long distances.
An average American crow is always smaller than ravens. If we compare them with the size of more common birds, the crow is only a little larger than the pigeon; however, the raven has a similar size as a red-tailed hawk. The difference in their size and body structure is quite noticeable, however, the outlook is what gets most birdwatchers confused.
In comparison, crows have skinny bodies weighing around 320-620g; however, ravens might seem beefier with a weight of 0.6-2kg. Their difference in size and appearance is identifiable and distinctive even from far distances. You can identify these similar-looking birds by just differentiating the size even from far without using binoculars.
You are less likely to find both of these birds together. Hence, it is essential that you know and learn to judge different size categories of birds.
As ravens and crows are pretty similar in appearance, their size is the most variable feature they have. It will take you less than a second to differentiate between them if you know the skill of judging the size.
Hence, to compare the size, you may have to learn the basic size categories.
Knowing the size categories, you will be better equipped in your mind to compare the size of the birds quickly and be able to identify the species next time you spot it.
Ravens and crows have a similar appearance that includes the same color with almost no difference in shades. Both of these birds have black color beaks and black color eyes, making them look very similar. They even have similar colored feet as well.
The only thing that makes a raven look different than an American crow is its fluffed-up head and feathers right below its beak.
Yes! If you think it might get difficult for you to differentiate between them by judging the size difference, there are also significant differences between crows and ravens in their appearance other than the size difference.
The differences can be identified in their tail shapes, body size, feather arrangement, wings shape, and bill shape. Their neck feathers might also differ as crows have smoother feathers.
If it’s a crow you’re spotting, then the tail will be fan-shaped; however, in the case of spotting a raven, you might notice a wedge-shaped tail having a point at its end.
The wings of crows are blunt in shape while ravens have pointed wings. Further, ravens are larger bills whereas crows have rather smaller and straighter bills.
You can differentiate between adult crows and juveniles by judging their eye colors. Juvenile crows have pale blue color eyes and have a duller tone in their feathers with extra brown plumage. However, adult crows have a light violet glow on their body and a greenish-blue gloss on the wings.
Ravens are very intelligent birds. The juvenile ravens can be seen playing fun games of catching sticks by dropping them first while flying and then instantly diving to catch them before they touch the ground.
Crows are birds of the flock that can be seen in murder; however, ravens are not. Crows are most commonly found with at least two or three other crows and are mostly found in areas near humans. Meanwhile, ravens can mostly be found alone or sometimes with their pairs.
Crows can be spotted in parks and other everyday common places. However, ravens on the contrary can be found in places like farms and pastures.
Crows are very sociable and human-friendly as well. In comparison, ravens are not as sociable and human-friendly as crows.
Ravens do not live around humans and are more cautious if they see any. They are mostly found in rural areas. However, both of these birds are highly intelligent, and you can observe them using tools like rocks to break shells.
Crows have the largest brain amongst all other birds except for parrots. Furthermore, they have an amazing body-to-brain ratio that is equivalent to a chimpanzee; this means it is pretty near that of humans.
No, crows are human-friendly birds and can be found living in a combination of different habitats; however, ravens only live in the wild.
They are generally seen to inhabit partly open or open areas. They can also be found in agricultural fields, tidal flats, and orchards. Crows live with humans and can also be found in forests like riparian forests or on savannas.
Commonly, ravens live in open and forest habitats across western and northern America. This includes evergreen forests as well as high desert and sea coast. It also includes sagebrush, tundra, and grasslands.
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Ravens are very joyful and energetic birds. They can be seen as acrobats in the sky. You can enjoy seeing them surf updrafts, do somersaults, and even fly upside down because they are naturally capable of doing that.
Crows are easy to identify even without seeing because of their unique ‘caw caw’ sound. They are considered songbirds as they sing a vast range of melodies.
Most of us are very fond of the crow sound and can identify them easily. Crows make a “caw” like sound that is seemingly nasal, harsh, and high-pitched. They make “caw” like sound in series along with rattles and clicks.
However, ravens make deeper sounds like “Gronk” which are hollower and low-pitched sounds.
Unlike crows, ravens can talk and sing with a vast repertoire of more than 100 vocalizations. They can mimic human-like voices in their deep-pitched voices. Ravens can also sing and can mimic other bird sounds as well. However, crows can vocalize their emotions in reaction to hunger or being terrorized.
Ravens are intelligent and are known to store leftover food away for later. If they somehow sense that another raven has seen the hiding place, they will pretend to stockpile the food, later hiding it somewhere else.
Yes! Crows and ravens both are scavengers which means they are omnivores and can be seen eating both vegetables and meat. These species can be seen exploring through garbage and hunting small mammals and insects as their prey. They also hunt eggs of other birds and sometimes nestlings too.
Crows prefer to eat both types of food commonly. However, unlike crows, ravens mostly prefer eating meat as their primary choice of food.
The reason behind ravens preferring to eat meat more is because they are considered to be more wild birds in comparison to crows. In addition, ravens live in remote areas where they have fewer opportunities to scavenge their food from human sources.
If you have any smaller garden birds with their nests, try not to have crows around too often. Crows and ravens are extremely efficient egg thieves. They can wait and watch other birds build the nests and even observe their behavior to hunt whenever the bird is not around. They may also steal the food of young hatchlings that these birds bring.
The American crows can be found throughout the United States; however, they are not found in the desert areas of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
Since crows are human-friendly and live near them, they do not prefer living in desert areas. The range of the distribution of crows may extend into Canada, Northwest Territories, Quebec, and Yukon.
However, ravens are mostly found in different areas of the Western United States. They can inhabit areas including Alaska and significant parts of Canada.
However, ravens are not found in south-eastern and central areas of the United States. Both of these species do not have any threat of extinction and have stable populations.
Crows mostly do not migrate and are known for being residents. They will hang around near their breeding grounds and will rarely move to any other location. They also adjust according to different environments, as crows in urban areas live in smaller territories in only about 10% of that of the territory of rural crows.
To be able to better differentiate between a crow and a raven, this post covered aspects of the different traits ranging between both species.
Crows and ravens have an apparent size difference which can be potentially compared even if seen from a distance. Ravens are way larger than American crows, having a height of 21”- 26” and are even bulkier as well.
However, an American crow being smaller is barely a little larger than any domestic pigeon with a height of about 16”-21”. Their size difference is apparent enough to be observed from long distances without even the use of binoculars.
Read this interesting post to find out how you can befriend a crow and get to know them better.
My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!
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June 13, 2021
June 13, 2021