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Ravens and Crows - Who Is Who

They look a lot alike, but there are subtle differences...

Is that big black bird a crow or a raven? How can you tell? Ravens (seen right here) often travel in pairs, while crows (left) are seen in larger groups. Also, study the tail as the bird flies overhead. A crow's tail is shaped like a fan, while the raven's tail appears wedge-shaped. Another clue is to listen closely to the birds' calls. Crows give a cawing sound, but ravens produce a lower croaking sound. To learn more about crows and ravens, you can visit All About Birds. Or, get information when you take a class from your local Audubon society.

Full Transcript

Ravens and Crows – Who’s Who?

Written by Frances Wood

This is BirdNote!
[Forest ambient sound and call of the Common Raven]
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?
[Call of the 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. [Crow’s caw, caw] But ravens produce a lower croaking sound. [Raven’s croak]
We’re back looking up at that tree. Now can you tell? Is this an American Crow or a Common Raven?
[Repeat ambient forest with 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

ID#091605corvidKPLU   AMCRCORA-01b-2010-09-28


comments 2Show

I'm an amateur part time bird watcher and have a fondness for crows and now for ravens. Prior to this all I knew was that blue jays were related to crows. The information you have provided explaining the differences between these wonderful birds is much appreciated. Thank You!

Thanks; good info and a lot of help in differentiating the two birds.


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