Raven vs crow: what's the difference, and how do you tell them apart?

Raven vs crow: what's the difference, and how do you tell them apart?

American crows and ravens are strikingly similar, and many tend to assume they are the same. Crows and ravens differ significantly in behaviour, habitat, and physical characteristics. Due to their jet-black physical colour, many people interpret their appearance as threatening. They believe encountering a crow or a raven brings no bad luck. This raven vs. crow discussion highlights some key differences and similarities between the two birds.

A raven on a bench (L). A crow standing on a rock (R)
A raven on a bench (L). A crow standing on a rock (R). Photo: @phil-mitchell, @marek-piwnicki, pexels.com (modified by author)
Source: UGC


Ravens and American crows belong to the Corvidae family and other species such as rooks, jackdaws, and choughs. They are similar enough to make distinguishing between them difficult. However, individuals can distinguish between these birds differently, such as size, calling sounds, and flight.

Raven vs crow

The best way to identify the difference is the voice, but there are other differences, such as size, appearance, and flight. How can you differentiate between a raven and a crow? Here are some differences between ravens and crows to help you tell them apart.

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Raven vs crow in size

According to the National Audubon Society, the raven is about the same size as a red-tailed hawk and is twice larger than crows. Ravens are longer, heavier, and have a greater wingspan.

An adult raven is 22-27 inches long, weighs 24-57 oz., and has a wingspan of 47-59 inches. Crows are the same size as pigeons. An adult crow is 17-21 inches long, 11-21 oz. in weight, and has a wingspan of 33-39 inches.

Raven vs Crow in intelligence

Ravens and crows are known for their special skill sets and intelligence. They are regarded as the most intelligent wild birds. Ravens can imitate human speech, think ahead, and remember the best solutions to a problem.  They often engage in aerobatics, such as sudden rolls and dives with their wings tucked, and play with objects by tossing and catching them mid-air.

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Crows, on the other hand, can create and use tools to obtain food. According to the Washington State University, they retrieve insects from narrow spaces using hooks constructed from elastic twigs that bend into a J shape with their feet and beaks. They can also identify and remember faces.

Raven vs Crow in appearance

Ravens appear larger than crows. They are heavier, longer, and have wider wings. Their feathers look ragged when fluffing up their chest, but crows tend to fluff them into a mane. Compared to crows, they have more curved beaks.

The throat feathers also provide a physical difference between the two. The throat feathers of a raven are more ragged and shaggy in appearance than those of a crow, which are sleek and smooth.

Raven vs crow tails

A black raven (L). An American crow perching on brown-wooden post (R)
A black raven (L). An American crow perching on a brown-wooden post (R). Photo: @solyartphotos, @mali, pexels.com (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Crows have fan-shaped tails with more squared feather tips, whereas ravens have wedge-shaped tails with slightly pointed feather tips. When a raven is flying, the tail feathers are arranged in a diamond pattern, but the crow's tail feathers are more like a flat-edged fan.

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Raven vs Crow in flight

Ravens and crows fly in different ways. According to the National Audubon Society, crows flap their wings in flight, whereas ravens fly more like raptors by using thermal air currents to soar. Ravens make a swishing sound while the crows beat their wings silently.

Because crows' tail feathers are generally uniform in length, they have a fan-shaped appearance in flight. On the other hand, Ravens' tail feathers vary in length, giving them a wedge—or diamond-shaped tail in flight.

Crow vs raven movement and sound

Both species have close-knit family units and are friendly and beautiful birds. However, ravens typically travel in pairs, while crows are prone to travel in larger groups. Crows like being in human-populated areas and are, therefore, likely to be seen in urban landscapes, while ravens prefer livestock and sheep and are mainly found in wilder areas.

Hearing their calls, you can tell the difference between a crow and a raven. Ravens call with a deeper, throatier croaking sound, while crows make an even caw, caw sound. When the birds are on the ground, ravens hop and walk, while crows only walk.

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 Raven vs crow vs blackbird

A black raven perched on a metal fence (L). A crow on pole (C). A blackbird in nature (R)
A black raven perched on a metal fence (L). A crow on pole (C). A blackbird in nature (R). Photo: @lebele, @robertkso, @juan-felipe-ramirez, pexels.com (modified by author)
Source: UGC

From a distance, ravens, crows, and blackbirds are almost identical. However, upon closer examination, there are many differences among them. The raven is the largest among the three, followed by the crow. Crows, the size of a pigeon, are four times bigger than the blackbird.

Blackbirds belong to a different family, Turdidae. In flight, they have a long tail that ends in a point. The male blackbird has a yellowish-orange beak, whereas the females are primarily brown in appearance. Out of the three, blackbirds are the least social. They are quite territorial, are alone, and show fewer social interactions.

Raven vs crow symbolism

Throughout history, ravens and crows have been used in different mythologies. They are sometimes interpreted as a sign of bad luck but can also be seen as messengers for divine messages.

In Native America, southwestern tribes view the raven as the bearer of light that had broken free from the darkness of the cosmos. Because they soar high toward the sky, ravens can take people's prayers to the spiritual realm and return with messages.

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Crows bird represent communication from the spiritual realm, change, sacred laws, and, in some cultures, death. Some interpret a swarm of crows appearing out of nowhere as a sign of approaching death. Due to their scavenging nature, crows are often associated with death. They frequently appear in cemeteries and on battlefields.

Raven vs Crow side by side

A raven resting on a blue textile surface (L). Crow bird looking away (R)
A raven resting on a blue textile surface (L). Crow bird looking away (R). Photo: @emil-zmiycharov, @robertkso, pexels.com (modified by author)
Source: UGC

If you can get a close-up look, ravens have fluffier feathers around their heads, especially near their throats. Additionally, their beaks are broader and curve more toward the end than crows'. Crows' throat feathers are smooth, and the beak is short with a straight cutting edge.

The raven's plumage is highly glossed, displaying iridescent purple, blue, and green hues. The feathers can have a moist or oily gloss at times. Though less glossy than ravens, crows have iridescent purple and blue feathers.

Are crows and ravens the same?

Despite sharing a family and some physical similarities, the raven and crow are not the same bird. Although they resemble each other, they possess differentiating qualities such as size, tail shape and sounds that set them apart. Ravens are larger than crows and tend to travel in pairs, while crows travel in bigger groups.

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Can a crow beat a raven?

According to National Geographic, crows regularly attack common ravens, their rivals and predators across North America. When ravens are presented with the opportunity, they consume the clutch of eggs a crow lays. The crows make up for their small stature with their large numbers, giving them an upper hand against the ravens.

Are crows as smart as raven?

Crows and ravens have some of the highest levels of intelligence among animal species. According to Current Biology, they can perform 'statistical reasoning', mimic speech, use tools, and identify and recall faces. Ravens have been known to call upon and converse with predators to avoid exerting labour and instead wait to feed on the carcass like scavengers.

Why do they call crows ravens?

Crows and ravens are two different but closely related bird species. Both have glossy black feathers and are highly intelligent, which can lead people to confuse them. However, when looked at from a close angle, they have different physical features in their size, tail, and wingspan.

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While crows and ravens look similar, they are different in their physical characteristics, behaviour, and habitat. Some people may find it difficult to differentiate between the birds. Ravens vs crows differences can help you identify their distinct features in tail shape, size, and sounds, which are important to note.

Legit.ng recently published an article about what cardinals represent. Cardinals, also known as red birds, are a species of songbirds, most of which have thick bills and crested heads. The red bird symbolises security, energy, good fortune, and willpower.

People from different cultures associate seeing cardinals with various things. The cardinal is the official bird of seven eastern US states and is particularly common in the Southeast. Learn more about the birds in the article.

Source: Legit.ng

Isaac Wangethi avatar

Isaac Wangethi (Lifestyle writer) Isaac Wangethi has been a content writer at Legit since September 2021. He has gained valuable experience working on various projects, such as celebrity biographies, lifestyle, news and many more. Isaac won the Writer of the Year Award on Legit in 2023. He earned a Bsc. of Science in Information Technology in 2017 from the University of Nairobi and a Higher Diploma in Computer Software Engineering from Gretsa University in 2021. In 2023, Isaac finished the AFP course on Digital Investigation Techniques. In March 2024, he completed the Google News Initiative course. Email: Wangethin@gmail.com

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