Raven vs. Crow: How to Tell Them Apart?

Tori Rhodes
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Raven vs. crow

How to tell them apart?

Ravens and crows may look similar but, there are many differences between them that you can learn by knowing their diet, habitat, appearance, and behavior.

General Shape

Blackbird, a common name for a crow is a large, black bird with sturdy beak and a noticeable white patch on the throat. In some species of blackbirds, females are duller than males. Crows have two toes.

Ravens are larger than crows, having a bigger bill and head. Wings are more feathered in ravens than crows, which enable them to fly more effectively in the air. The underbelly of a raven has thick feathers.


Crows are omnivorous animals, eating berries, frogs, mice, eggs, and insects. Crows are intelligent animals. They use tools in their daily life.

While, ravens are carnivorous animals, typically feeding on small mammals, reptiles, insects and other birds. The diet of a raven depends on the ecosystem where they live.


Though they share the same habitat, crows and ravens are separated geographically and form family groups only with crows living in Eurasia and ravens living in North America.


Crows are social animals, while ravens are solitary.

Songs and sounds

Are often attributed to crows because they’re familiar to humans, but what about American crows and ravens? Are they the same thing?

Well, not exactly. They are both in the Corvus family but crows are a type of raven.

It’s hard to say exactly why people call birds from the Corvus family crows. They’re not technically crows. But I’ll tell you that crow is a really broad term and doesn’t differentiate a lot of smaller birds, like ravens.

The only true difference between the two is that crows are smaller, have a smaller beak and smaller feet and they tend to live in more open areas. They also generally have black feathers.

Size and shape

Crows tend to be larger than ravens. Ravens on average measure about 21 to 26 inches (53-66 cm) in length.

The largest known crow was over 22 inches (56 cm) in length. Crows have strong, longish black bills.

Crows have long tails that are about 12 inches in length (30 cm). A raven’s tail is roughly 7 inches in length (18 cm).

Crows are not quite as big as ravens and have chunkier bodies.

Ravens are also bigger around the chest, at about 18 inches in circumference. Crows have an average of 12 inches in chest size.

The wingspan is another characteristic that sets those two apart. Ravens have longer wings and are about 3 inches longer from the tip of one wing to the other tip of the other wing.

Crows have short tails and rounded wings that are only slightly longer than their bodies. Crows are also known to be slightly quicker and agile in flight than ravens.

Crows are a little smaller than ravens and are more terrestrial than their cousins.

Crows are black all over. Their tails and heads are glossy black, and their bills and feet are black as well.

Color patterns and variations

Ravens and crows almost always live in urban areas—cities, towns, or even suburban areas. They are frequently seen near homes, feeding on garbage, insects, or food that has been put out for pigeons or other wild birds. They can be seen perching on power lines, and they seem to accept people in urban areas as part of their home.

It’s difficult to tell the difference between a crow and a raven. The easiest way is to look at the shape and color patterns of the bird. In general, ravens have a slimmer shape than crows and have a larger bill. The back is often a dark blue or slate-colored. Their wing flight feathers are often iridescent black and grey. The throat is a muted orange-red in color and the upper breast is also orange-red.

Crows have a larger head and throat than ravens. They also have a white ring around the neck. Even though crows and ravens sometimes have the same color patterns, it is uncommon for a raven to have a large white neck ring.

Crows have mottled-gray body feathers with a lighter color at the base. They have a light brown, blotchy look on the back, wings, and the tail.


When it comes to cognitive ability, black birds (which include crows but not ravens) are actually the “smarter” birds, as they can remember where they hid different types of food, using one item (say, peanuts) to lead them to another (such as bird seed) ….

Ravens, on the other wing, don’t appear to show that kind of selectivity in their caching habits.

Ravens also have a broader diet and are not as dependent on scavenging. They are also on average smaller than crows, with the largest raven species only about half the size of the largest crow. So they are less likely to come into direct competition with crows over nest space or food.

Also, grackles, which can be “black” birds, but are actually sort of reddish, are sometimes mistaken for crows, but grackles are actually relatives of pigeons, and are distinct from crows and ravens. Female grackles do look similar to female crows, but grackles lack the bright color of the crow’s iris.


Crows are known for their intelligence, which was tested in the famous experiments of psittacine martyrs. The crows used in the experiments were able to navigate mazes, use tools, and work collaboratively for a common goal. Because of that, crows are considered to be one of the most intelligent among birds.

On the other hand, ravens have yet to be tested on anything similar. They are simply not as widely studied. But that doesn’t mean they are dim, by any means.

They are also highly intelligent birds, and the two species are not as distinct as you’d likely be led to believe. In fact, their behaviors and lifestyles overlap quite a bit.

Crows and ravens are both members of the Passeriformes order, and the Corvidae family. The distinction between the two species is not always strictly adhered to in the scientific community, and many people use the terms interchangeably.

They are native to both North America and Europe, and are the largest members of the Corvidae family. They are closely related and share the family’s exceptional memory, strength, and problem-solving abilities.

When making a distinction between the two species of corvids, their size, color, and habitat are usually considered.

Tips for field identification

The distinguishing characteristics of the Raven (corvus corax), also known as common raven or northern raven, and the Crow (corvus corone), also known as American crow or common crow, are similar, yet also quite different.

The Raven can most easily be distinguished from the Crow by looking at its bill. The bill of the Raven is slightly longer, thicker, and more pointed at the tip than the bill of the Crow. In addition, the beak of the Raven is more complex with a long upper bill and a separate lower piece. The beak of the Crow is simple, with a long upper bill and a short lower piece, and often appears more stoutly proportioned than the Raven.

Differences in size are also a fairly clear distinction between these species. The Raven is considerably larger than the Crow, with the Raven featuring a wingspan of about 50–70 cm (20–28 in) and the Crow a wingspan of about 35–45 cm (14–18 in).

Another field identification characteristic is the Raven’s relative silence when in flight. The Crow’s flight is described as “harsh” and it produces a variety of distinct calls (caws), whereas the Raven is characterized as being relatively quiet and is considered to be one of the least noisy of all bird species.


Crows and ravens are similar in many ways. Both are strong medium-sized birds, about the size of a cat. Their large tail is characteristic and the most significant way to distinguish them. The raven, also known as the common raven or corbie, has a wedge-shaped tail, while the crow is rounded. Both have slim bodies, and are black in colour.

Ravens are also bigger than crows. They live in pairs or groups and live very long – 40 years or longer; while crows tend to live in larger flocks and are more nomadic. They also have a much more extensive vocal range.

So if you hear a heart-rending, plaintive crying that rises and falls, and is interspersed with loud, cackling laughter, you are listening to a raven. The same could also go for the droning, deep-toned cawing of a crow. A raven will utter a disturbing, low-pitched scream that can be heard over long distances. Crows have a lower pitch to their call. The normal caw of a crow is quite loud, but it is rarely heard over long distances.