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Raven vs Crow: What Makes Them Different? (Explained)

I once overheard my two kids debating the sort of bird they had seen perched on the roof. One thought it was a crow, while the other was adamant that it was a raven.


The former claimed that all black birds were crows, implying that the bird hung there was a crow, whereas the latter stated that ravens were also black. As a bird enthusiast, I was summoned to come to help out, and upon seeing the bird, I immediately knew what it was.

If you want to learn how to quickly tell the difference between a raven and a crow, stick with me because I'll show you how!

Main Differences Between Raven vs Crow

The main differences between Raven vs Crow are:

  • Common ravens are large birds with a wingspan of 3-4 feet long and a body size ranging between 20-30 inches, whereas American crows are smaller birds of 10-20 inches long and have a wingspan of 1-2 feet.
  • A Raven’s body and tail have gleaming feathers with a wet sheen, whereas crow’s tail and body have less gleaming feathers with fewer and lighter patterns.
  • A common raven has a larger, more robust, and curved beak, with a tuft of hair on top, whereas an American crow's beak is smaller, flat, and lacks hair.
  • Ravens are less social birds and typically flock in pairs, whereas crows are more outgoing and gregarious, flocking in groups or crowds.
  • Ravens make a low, raspy sound comparable to croaking or honking, whereas crows emit a high-pitched sound similar to 'caw caw.'

The distinctions between these two birds are primarily in their size and shape, which can only be seen up close.

Despite their differences, these birds are similar; they belong to the same family and have comparable colors and mannerisms—which is why some people consider a raven to be a larger crow species.

Let's take a closer look at some of these birds' similarities, and then we'll look at how to tell these birds apart with just a glance.

Similarities Between A Common Raven And An American Crow

Ravens and crows have distinct physical characteristics. Nonetheless, I've seen folks confuse a common raven with an American crow and vice versa. This is because, despite their differences, they have some striking similarities.

Aside from sharing the same Corvidae family and genus Corvus, ravens (Corvus corax) and crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) have the same jet-black coloration. If you see an extremely black bird beating its wings in the sky, your initial instinct is to think it's a crow or a raven.

Another similarity between a common raven and an American crow is that you'll almost certainly notice them scavenging about your dumpsite, making a large mess. 

Both of these birds are opportunistic omnivores.

Furthermore, they are usually found in the same place, flocking around. Because their natural habitats overlap, you are likely to see them both hanging on the same tree or even on your roof!

How To Tell Apart A Common Raven From An American Crow In One Glance

Let's look at the differences I highlighted earlier in detail!


Raven vs Crow: Body Size

Literally, ravens are bigger than crows in size. Even the Carrion crow, bigger than the American crow, is still relatively smaller than a common raven. 

Surprisingly, the smallest species of ravens–the Chihuahuan raven, is slightly bigger than the biggest crows.

According to the size and weight of a raven which is 20 -30 inches with an average weight of 40 ounces, the raven is double the size of the American crow of 10-20 inches long, weighing an average of 20 ounces.

Tail Shape And Size

The curve of these birds' tails is one unique feature that may be recognized even in flight.

You've most certainly seen a raven if you observe a black bird flying through the sky with larger middle tail feathers that give the tail the appearance of a wedge shape. Ravens have long pointed wings and wedge-shaped tails, but crows have short, blunt, and splayed wings with a tail shape that stretches out in the form of a fan.

Also, suppose you're able to attract any of these birds to your backyard; observing the colors of their plumage would give you a heads-up on the exact species you have in your yard. The plumes of a raven are highly glossed, showing iridescent greens, blues, and purples. Most times, these plumes have an oily or wet sheen. 

However, Crows also have tail feathers with iridescent purple and blue, but with less sheen than the raven. 

Behavioral Patterns

Ravens are shy birds that prefer to move in a group of twos. Furthermore, you can hardly see them in noisy places such as urban cities, and they often stick to the forest habitats. Therefore, if you spot a black bird hanging on the city pole, your best bet is to have a crow there, even if it's a big one.

Crows are social birds fond of being a nuisance to humans. They always flock in groups, and crows tend to flap during flight, which is different as ravens soar instead. Also, ravens are longer necked in flight than crows. 

Another thing to look out for is how they walk when they are on the ground. Crows are walkers while ravens are hoppers –- they do a combination of walking and hopping, especially when scurrying.

Call Sounds

It would help if you always listened to this when trying to differentiate a crow from a raven because their sounds are distinctive and peculiar.

Ravens sounds are bigger and fuller. It's just expected that their sounds are more profound and hoarser than the smaller crows. Ravens make a low-pitched deep call that may sound like "croooaaak," "gronk- gronk," "tok," and "wonk-wonk." 

But suppose you're listening to a high-pitched sound that imitates 'caws' or 'purrs' in short series. In that case, the chances are that it's a crow trying to communicate with its fellow. Crow calls can also be a variety of rattles, coos, and clear notes. 

However, hearing the vocalizations of these birds is not something you experience frequently. Thus, the other distinguishing features are there to help you determine whether you saw a raven or a crow.

Which Is More Intelligent: Crow Or Raven?

I have heard people argue about the intelligence of these black birds. While some believe that ravens are more intelligent, those who have crows as captives beg to differ. Crows and ravens are intelligent birds with various behaviors that make them worthy of being considered intelligent.

Crows are very intelligent and are known to devise ingenious ways of getting food and surviving in urbanized areas, thus earning them the name scavengers. 

These medium-sized blackbirds are known to imitate the sounds of humans. It's no surprise that some people wish to have them as pets and keep them in captivity.

Also, due to their intelligence, crows exhibit efficiency at using tools. Two common species that use tools are the New Caledonian crow and the Hawaiian common crow. The Caledonian crows care for their tools and make new ones—bending straight pieces of garden wire into hooked foraging tools.

The ravens are also considered intelligent because of their ability to make a minimum of seven different call sounds. Ravens tend to also imitate the sounds of other birds, most especially Jays, geese, and even crows’ cawing sounds!

Additionally, with Raven's ability to do graceful somersaults and acrobatics, people regard them as intelligent birds. They also use stunts like flying upside down to attract their mates. 

Birdhub Talk: Now that you know the differences between the two, we focus our attention on crows and how they thrive while still babies -- Baby Crow.

Watch This!

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Is Stronger Crow Or Raven?

Despite these birds being of the same family and genus, they are different. And the significant difference lies in their size and weight. 

Ravens are big birds weighing like a red-tailed hawk of 40 ounces–which is double the weight of a crow that weighs 20 ounces, just like the pigeon. Therefore, based on their weight and size, it's right to claim that ravens are stronger birds than crows.

Also, ravens are longer and have heavier wingspan -- all of these contribute to the strength of this bird.

Can A Crow And Raven Mate?

This is one of the frequently asked questions, and people are curious as to whether a crow and raven can mate and, if so, what breed would they reproduce. Even I was curious till I researched it.

Because they belong to the Corvus genus with a few similarities and exact geographical location, you might be assuming that these bird species can mate to produce little 'cravens.' However, based on research, animals only mate if they have or share a recent relative. But American crows are more related to China crows than to the common ravens.

It has been concluded that crows and ravens are reproductively isolated and do not hybridize. But under the strangest of circumstances, anything could happen.


That's all there is to it, fellas! I'm confident that after reading this article, the next time you see a blackbird perched on your rooftop, you'll know whether it's a raven or a crow.

Even though they share some characteristics, these two birds are not the same. When you get closer to them, you can tell the difference. You can tell them apart easily by looking at their size, plumage, bills, tails, and even behavioral tendencies.

And who knows, maybe you'll develop a passion for birds as I do!

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