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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.

Crows and Ravens: By Sight

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

American Crow


american crowWidespread across North America. Bill size: moderate; Length: 20"; Wingspan: 36"
american crow flight silhouetteIn flight: Rounded tail; 5 broad feather "fingers"

Fish Crow

fish crowEast Coast and southeastern U.S. Bill size: moderate; Length: 16"; Wingspan 33"
fish crow flight silhouetteIn flight: rounded tail; 4 broad feather "fingers"

Common Raven

common ravenWestern North America, Northeast, and mountains. Bill size: very large; Length: 27"; Wingspan 46"
common raven flight silhouetteIn flight: diamond-shaped tail; 4 long, thin feather "fingers"

Chihuahuan Raven

Chihuahuan RavenSouthwestern U.S. and Mexico. Bill size: large; Length: 20"; Wingspan 42"
Chihuahuan Raven flight silhouetteIn flight: diamond-shaped tail; 4 broad feather "fingers"

Crows and Ravens: By Sound

One of the best ways to tell crows and ravens apart is by their calls. Here are some expert tips on the sounds they make, and what those sounds mean.

Practice by listening to the sounds of each species:

American Crows have a strong, harsh caw.

Fish Crows make a weaker, more nasal, and often 2-noted caw.

Common Ravens make a deep, throaty croak.

Chihuahuan Ravens make a deep kraaa sound.

Recordings © Macaulay Library/Cornell Lab. 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.


  • Matthew Heyns

    Are black birds specific or the general common distinction?

  • Tru2form

    Wow Kevin!..this is a wonderful presentation about the subtle distinctions between a crow and a raven. Odd that ravens inhabit Western US and Northeast but not in Tennessee? Both these intelligent birds fascinate me and their antics are sometimes fun to watch. For instance, while at the lodge area of the Grand Canyon I observed a raven to light upon the restaurant’s grease disposal barrel in the back of the restaurant, near the dumpster. The raven would dip its beak into the solidified grease seeming to enjoy it, it made return trips.

    Back in Tennessee, the large crows (that I thought were ravens until watching your presentation here) will fly away with chicken bones I leave in the back yard for the racoons. Thanks Keven McGowan of Cornell Labs for this interesting post.

  • Hailey Vandewall

    What is the difference intellectually between the American Crow and the Common Raven? I want to know, as far as problem solving skills and intelligence levels, how the two birds differ. Please help.

    • Rob H

      It’s like one of them is a white bird and the other is the nigga bird.

      • Hailey Vandewall

        Sorry, there seems to be a misunderstanding. I was looking for a serious answer from someone who’s NOT an idiot. 😒

  • Anonymous Person

    At first I was confused that the crows in my area weren’t on here. Turns out that they have been grackles all along. I feel like my life is a lie…

  • AgTip

    When I was a kid I heard many people say that ravens were extinct. Apparently the ravens did not hear those tales.
    Ravens are very smart. I chase hawks from my chicken run and they come back. I have been able to trap and humiliate a few. But ONE surprise upon the ravens — I walked in the coop and found a raven picking at the back of the head of a chicken to penetrate her skull and kill her — I almost caught him as he flew past me to escape, and now they stay clear, although I’ve seen them post a sentry while another investigates.
    I have learned a bit of their language … they will play with me a while before they get bored and leave.