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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.

Comments

  • Matthew Heyns

    Are black birds specific or the general common distinction?

  • 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.

  • Kowboy Kaziklibey

    Whoever told you Ravens were extinct must not have been to western North America. Where the Taiga’s southern fingers come down into the USA, my present home and on and off work place for over a half a century, Ravens are very often the most common bird encountered in any specific area. Although they will be seen anywhere, even in the most remote areas uninhabited by humans, Ravens and people go together. Playgrounds, store parking lots, fields and refuse dumps all attract them by the many thousands. Native American tribes to the west and to the north of here consider the bird holy. The Common Raven to British Colombians is like the Bald Eagle to the USA, highway signs in B.C. feature the Raven. Of course, Ravens aren’t confined to North America. They’re still found in Europe, Asia throughout Siberia, and unless I’m mistaken, they still inhabit the Near and Middle East where their presence was first recorded.

  • Kowboy Kaziklibey

    P.S., If you live in the USA, you may want check with your local warden or wildlife officer before killing a Raven. In the USA Ravens are federally protected and most states have additional laws protecting them. You may well be in the clear by protecting your poultry, but many fish and wildlife agencies want to handle it themselves even in those situations.

  • AgTip

    Here in Montana the Ravens (capitalized, eh?) are large birds. I have a scull that must measure over 4 inches from tip of beak to the back of the bird’s head. Up in Alaska the ravens are much smaller … one insistent fellow opened up my lunch brownbag and ate my lunch leftovers right beside me as I sat and lettered a boat. Crows are everywhere, but do not have the mystique that the Ravens have. Our little clique of folks call ourselves the Raven Clan. Those birds are smart. They can work in solitude or in flocks.

  • AgTip

    I can’t really say. I DO know tho’ that Ravens are wonderfully intelligent and I am sure they can count. I nearly caught one in my chicken coop that was working to crack the skull of a hen, picking on her head repeatedly right behind her comb. He flew as I came through the door. (I very nearly caught his legs as he went by. Wish I had, I would have loved to try to create a friendship.) I have often fed them … and if an egg is lying in the yard, they approach the egg, stomping on the ground with a foot, as though the egg were sitting on a loaded trap. Very smart birds.

  • AgTip

    Black birds are specifically differentiated from both crows and ravens. Black birds are smaller than either of the foregoing, and SING. Crows are not so melodious, and as much as I love Ravens, I”m afraid that Tom Waits is better than any of them. I love the trilling song of the RedWing Blackbird, which is complicated and beautiful. I think Ravens have a much broader vocabulary, but for music you’d be better off with the tiny, tinny speakers of your cellphone.

  • AgTip

    Yeah, I don’t kill them. I call my place Sanctuary Sylvan. Very rarely do I cut a living tree, and then only for the most serious of reasons (like shading the garden, although rarely). Even more rarely do I call on the Fish and Wildlife people to help me with my problems … most are college educated and have only “elitist” exposure to the real web of life around my place … they don’t see the daily doings of critters locally. I refer to them often for large population data, though, and I do have some friends among the service.
    I DO NOT deal with the forestry people, since their philosophy has degenerated into creative deforestation.

  • LichCrow

    That’s not how you create friendships xD that sounds like the spanish “colonization”. If you had tried to give him food i’m sure he’d go back.

  • AgTip

    Very true.
    Feeding that particular raven? He was helping himself by murdering one of my best layer hens. I don’t have many. That did taint our relationship right from the start.
    I HAVE tried feeding them in the yard. They are SOOO very careful when approaching food. I’ve seen them stamp their feet near the food as though to set off a trap. I’ve seen them approach, then jump suddenly back. It takes them a long time to actually steal the grub (usually eggs, once my hen gets over her trauma and splitting headache and takes her PTSD drugs). It’s a good thing ravens live so long since I think it might take most of their lifetime to actually tame one.