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Common Raven

Corvus corax ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: CORVIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The intriguing Common Raven has accompanied people around the Northern Hemisphere for centuries, following their wagons, sleds, sleighs, and hunting parties in hopes of a quick meal. Ravens are among the smartest of all birds, gaining a reputation for solving ever more complicated problems invented by ever more creative scientists. These big, sooty birds thrive among humans and in the back of beyond, stretching across the sky on easy, flowing wingbeats and filling the empty spaces with an echoing croak.

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Birds of North America Online

Keys to identification Help

Crows and Jays
Crows and Jays
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Not just large but massive, with a thick neck, shaggy throat feathers, and a Bowie knife of a beak. In flight, ravens have long, wedge-shaped tails. They're more slender than crows, with longer, narrower wings, and longer, thinner “fingers” at the wingtips.

  • Color Pattern

    Common Ravens are entirely black, right down to the legs, eyes, and beak.

  • Behavior

    Common Ravens aren’t as social as crows; you tend to see them alone or in pairs except at food sources like landfills. Ravens are confident, inquisitive birds that strut around or occasionally bound forward with light, two-footed hops. In flight they are buoyant and graceful, interspersing soaring, gliding, and slow flaps.

  • Habitat

    Common Ravens live in open and forest habitats across western and northern North America. This includes deciduous and evergreen forests up to treeline, as well as high desert, sea coast, sagebrush, tundra, and grasslands. They do well around people, particularly rural settlements but also some towns and cities.

Range Map Help

Common Raven Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult

    Common Raven

    Adult
    • Very large black bird
    • Long, shaggy throat feathers
    • Long, thick beak
    • Long feathers covering nostrils and base of bill
    • © Robinsegg, October 2008
  • Adult

    Common Raven

    Adult
    • Very large black bird
    • Shaggy throat feathers fluffed when calling
    • Medium-length tail longest in middle
    • Sturdy black legs
    • © laniisoma, Santa Cruz, California, January 2009
  • Adult

    Common Raven

    Adult
    • Very large black bird
    • Wings long, broad, and rather pointed
    • Medium-length tail longest in middle
    • "Fingers" in wings long and thin
    • © tripp.davenport, Alpine, Texas, February 2009
  • Adult

    Common Raven

    Adult
    • Long, thick beak
    • Long feathers covering nostrils and base of bill
    • Long, shaggy throat feathers
    • Sturdy black legs
    • © Chug Von Rospach, Yosemite National Park, California, December 2007
  • Adult

    Common Raven

    Adult
    • Very large black bird
    • Black with glossy purplish sheen
    • Long, thick beak
    • Long feathers covering nostrils and base of bill
    • © Chug Von Rospach, Yosemite National Park, California, December 2007

Similar Species

  • Adult

    American Crow

    Adult
    • Smaller size
    • Thinner bill
    • Shorter tail and wings
    • © Kevin J. McGowan, Tompkins Co, New York, February 2009
  • Adult male

    Common Grackle

    Adult male
    • Glossy overall (may show blue, green, and purple)
    • Yellow eye
    • Very long, large tail
    • Smaller; long, sleek shape
    • © Jim Gilbert, New Jersey, October 2008
  • Adult male

    Great-tailed Grackle

    Adult male
    • Glossy overall (may show blue, green, and purple)
    • Yellow eye
    • Very long, large tail
    • Long, sleek shape
    • Long legs; long slightly curved bill
    • © Sam Wilson, Scottsdale, Arizona, April 2008
  • Adult male

    Great-tailed Grackle

    Adult male
    • Glossy overall (may show blue, green, and purple)
    • Yellow eye
    • Very long, large tail
    • Long, sleek shape
    • Long legs; long slightly curved bill
    • © Gerry Dewaghe, Del Rio, Texas, April 2007
  • Adult

    American Crow

    Adult
    • American Crow has shorter, thinner bill
    • American Crow has shorter, more squared tail
    • © robinsegg , Salt Lake City, Utah, January 2009
  • Adult mobbing Red-tailed Hawk

    American Crow

    Adult mobbing Red-tailed Hawk
    • Wings broad and relatively short compared to those of Common Raven
    • Tail evenly rounded when spread, square when folded
    • "Fingers" in wings shorter and broader than those of Common Raven
    • © Eddie Callaway, Illinois, October 2007
  • Adult

    Fish Crow

    Adult
    • Fish Crow has shorter, thinner bill
    • Fish Crow has shorter, more squared tail
    • Fish Crow is much smaller than Common Raven
    • © Laura Erickson , Florida, August 2005

Similar Species

Common Ravens are considerably larger than American and Northwestern crows, although this difference can be hard to judge on its own if you don't look at size and shape. Look for the Common Raven's heftier bill, shaggy throat feathers, more slender, pointed wings, and longer, wedge-shaped tail. The crow-sized Chihuahaun Raven of the desert Southwest has a shorter bill, longer feathers around the bill, and less deep voice. Where these two species overlap, the Chihuahuan Raven tends to be in desert at lower elevations and the Common Raven in forests at higher elevations. And here's a useful behavior clue: ravens cruise along roads looking for roadkill. Crows don't typically do this, so if you see a bird flying right down the middle of a road, it's probably a raven.

Backyard Tips

You can attract ravens to your yard by leaving out large amounts of seed, grain, or pet food, or simply by not putting the top securely on your garbage can. These tactics might cause more trouble than they’re worth, though, attracting rodents and other pest animals or luring in ravens that may then raid nests in your yard.

Find This Bird

Look for ravens anywhere from the outskirts of towns (particularly landfills) to foothill forests or scrub, and out to the deep woods of mountains and national parks. If they’re around you’re likely to hear a deep gurgling croak from far overhead: look for a long-tailed black bird flying on long wings and easy, graceful wingbeats. When driving, keep an eye out for them on the roadsides, gathered at roadkill, or flying straight down the center line on the lookout.

Get Involved

Report your Common Raven sightings to eBird

Learn more about bird photography in our Building Skills section. Then contribute your images to the Birdshare flickr site, which helps supply the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's websites with photos, including All About Birds.

You Might Also Like

Ravens in Winter, by Bernd Heinrich

The Accidental Reaper: Ravens are following people into new habitats (California Wild magazine)

Explore sounds and video of Common Ravens from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library archive

Dinner Guests: Common Ravens may be why wolves hunt in packs. Spring 2012 Living Bird magazine