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ID Workshop

Similar Species: Crows and Ravens

by Kevin J. McGowan

Crows and ravens are large black birds found throughout North America, and they can be hard to tell apart. The best clue for identification is usually the voice, but the species differ in some other subtle ways, too. This page will help you recognize the differences among these often confusing birds.

Click on the species' name to go to its in-depth identification page in our All About Birds species guide.

American Crow

Fish Crow

  • Widespread across North America
  • Moderately large bill
  • Rounded tail
  • 5 broad feather "fingers"
  • Voice caw, caw
  • Length 20"; wingspan 36"
  • East Coast and southeastern U.S.
  • Moderately large bill
  • Rounded tail
  • 4 broad feather "fingers"
  • Voice nasal, aww or uh-huh
  • Length 16"; wingspan 33"


Chihuahuan Raven

Common Raven

  • Southwestern U.S. and Mexico
  • Large bill
  • Diamond-shaped tail
  • 4 broad feather "fingers"
  • Voice a harsh kraaa, kraaa
  • Length 20"; wingspan 42"
  • Western North America, Northeast, and mountains
  • Very large bill
  • Diamond-shaped tail
  • 4 long, thin feather "fingers"
  • Deep, croaking voice
  • Length 27"; wingspan 46"

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One of the best ways to tell crows and ravens apart is by their calls. Watch this video for some expert tips on the sounds these two common birds make and what those sounds mean.

Listen to the examples below and see if you can hear the differences. Click on each bird's name to visit the All About Birds species account for more information.

The American Crow makes a strong, harsh caw note.

  • Call example 1
  • Call example 2
  • Rattle

The Fish Crow's caw is much weaker, more nasal sounding, and is often two-noted.

  • Call example 1
  • Call example 2
  • Double-noted caw

The Chihuahuan Raven's voice is a deep, throaty kraaa

  • Call example 1
  • Call example 2
  • Knocking sounds

The Common Raven makes a strong and deep, full-throated croak.

  • Calls
  • Calls and knocking sounds

Recordings © Macaulay Library, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. ML catalog numbers: ML 135405, ML 105353, ML 50118; ML 135405, ML 105362, ML 26627; ML 57682, ML 57680, ML 57683; ML 132203, ML 120413. Recordists: Michael J. Andersen, William W.H. Gunn, Geoffery A. Keller.