How to Tell a Raven From a Crow

How to Tell a Raven From a Crow

These black birds may look similar in some ways, but several distinctive traits help set them apart. 

Brought to You by BirdNote®
Published: 10/22/2012

This story comes to you through a partnership between Audubon and BirdNote, a show that airs daily on public radio stations nationwide.

You’re outside, enjoying a sunny day when a shadow at your feet causes you to look up.  A large, black bird flies over and lands in a nearby tree. You wonder: is that a crow or a raven?

These two species, common ravens and American crows, overlap widely throughout North America, and they look quite similar. But with a bit of practice, you can tell them apart.

You probably know that ravens are larger, the size of a red-tailed hawk. Ravens often travel in pairs, while crows are seen in larger groups. Also, watch the bird’s tail as it flies overhead. The crow’s tail feathers are basically the same length, so when the bird spreads its tail, it opens like a fan. Ravens, however, have longer middle feathers in their tails, so their tail appears wedge-shaped when open.

Listen closely to the birds’ calls. Crows give a cawing sound. But ravens produce a lower croaking sound. 

We’re back looking up at that tree. Now can you tell? Is this an American crow or a common raven?

That’s a raven. The bird calls you hear on BirdNote come from the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. To hear them again, begin with a visit to our website, I’m Michael Stein.

Adapted by Dennis Paulson from a script written by Frances Wood.
Calls provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Ambient track American Raven recorded by R.S. Little, American Crow recorded by G.A. Keller.
Forest ambient and featured raven recorded by C. Peterson
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2012 Tune In to     September 2012     Narrator: Michael Stein

Magazine Category

Author Profile


BirdNote strives to transport listeners out of the daily grind and into the natural world with outstanding audio programming and online content. The stories we tell are rich in sound, imagery, and information - connecting the ways and needs of birds to the lives of listeners.

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine


I read this posting and

I read this posting and really very very efficient blog therefore, i want to share this blog to my other references. Thanks!

Yes i totally agree with what

Yes i totally agree with what you just said. the purpose is already given and why not something else like

I would like to thank you for

I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. In fact your creative writing abilitie

Thanks for revealing this

Thanks for revealing this data.
The info was really assistance as well as kept lots of my own time.
This will absolutely planning to aid me around my work .


That write-up seemed to be

That write-up seemed to be wonderfully written and it also posesses a large amount of practical facts. I personally treasured ones specialized way of writing this particular posting. Thank you you've made this super easy to understand.

So it's the blackbirds with

So it's the blackbirds with the blue sheen on their heads, right? I seem to get very large ones.

You're right! I see them in

You're right! I see them in my school every time and the Grackles, who are black with a purple-blue sheen to their heads, are our most common blackbirds.

Regards! ||

I am not sure what I have,

I am not sure what I have, however I am concerned about disease and my chickens. Which ones are a danger to my chickens? Which ones will carry off a whole chicken egg? I have a small group of three who visit every day mostly evening and morning but sometimes in the middle of the day as well. How can I discourage them or if necessary get rid of them?

Crows and Ravens don't have

Crows and Ravens don't have feet that can hold and carry things away in flight like Hawks and other birds of prey do. They would have to get a grip on a broken egg to insert the beak for a good hold on it to fly off with it.

What I have done in the past

What I have done in the past is to enclose a small area above the chicken yard using chicken wire. However, my chicken yard was an enclosed pen where the chickens could range. This kept most of the hawks, eagles and other large birds out. I hope this is helpful. Good luck. LHS

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.