What is the difference between a crow and raven?

Common Raven
Common Raven (Photo © Robinsegg)
Ravens are similar to crow species, except they are larger and more shaggy around the throat. Ravens are as big as Red-tailed Hawks.

Compared to crows, ravens fly more like hawks by soaring and with shallow wing beats. Ravens sometimes do somersaults in flight, which crows never do.

Ravens have deeper, more hoarse calls than crows.

Listen to a Common Raven
Listen to an American Crow

Ravens are found throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere although they are rare in some areas of Eastern United States. You are likely to find Common Ravens in locations where they can soar on rising hot air (thermals) and where there are cliffs or tall trees for nesting. American Crows are likely to be found in a variety of habitats throughout North America, including suburban areas and agricultural lands.

American Crow
American Crow (Photo © cyberastrofolkie)
American Crows, Fish Crows, and Northwestern Crows are nearly identical, but just like with Common Ravens, finding out what is most common in your neighborhood is the best first step to avoid confusion! To distinguish Fish Crows, check range maps and listen for Fish Crows’ more nasal “cow” calls compared to American Crows’ more burry, full-throated “caw.” American Crows are also slightly larger with broader wingtips. Northwestern Crows are slightly smaller and best separated by habitat: American Crows can be found throughout North America, except in the driest southern areas and on the Pacific coast (from northern Washington to Alaska) where they are replaced by the Northwestern Crow.

Did you know Blue Jays and crows are related?

Crows are part of the Corvidae family (called corvids). Corvids include crows, ravens, magpies, jays, and nutcrackers. They are among the smartest birds known (probably second to birds in the parrot family). Magpies can find objects that have been moved from one hiding place to another, even when they didn’t witness the objects being moved. Clark’s Nutcrackers can remember a thousand different locations where food has been hidden. Some corvids are thought to be able to recognize all of the individuals in their family group.

Want to know more about corvids? Visit Dr. Kevin McGowan’s crow FAQ page to learn more about telling crows and ravens apart.