Crow vs Raven – What is The Difference?

It takes an expert eye to differentiate crows and ravens flying high. More so, they are all purely black, have an almost similar body structure, and come from the Corvidae family.

In a nutshell, Corvidae is a broad-based family that consists of nutcrackers, rooks, ravens, crows, jays, jackdaws, magpies, choughs, and treepies, popularly known as Corvids or the Crow family. Amazingly, Corvids stand out among the world’s most intelligent bird species.

It is possible to pinpoint ravens from crows from the region you find them. For instance, these two birds overlap widely around the Western US and Canada.

However, the American crow and common raven do not extend beyond the US. Mainly, you may find these corvids around Maine, New York, Michigan, Minnesota, Appalachian Mountains, and Wisconsin.

Regardless of these physical similarities, several distinct characteristics keep ravens and crows apart. In this piece, we will share imperative guidelines on how to distinguish ravens from crows.


Usually, ravens are bigger and prefer flying in pairs. On the contrarily, crows spend most of their time in flocks. Likewise, you can notice some disparities in their feather’s lengths and how they open their wings during flight. Here are other physical differences between these two bird species.

– Tail Shape

It might take a considerable time for novice bird lovers to differentiate tail features between ravens and crows. With patience, it is possible to detect differences when you see the birds perch on the ground or when flying.

Compared to crow’s even tail feathers, raven’s tails are longer in the middle and take a wedge or diamond shape.

Somewhat, crow’s tail feathers appear more like a fan flapping in the sky. Oppositely, ravens do not flap their wings but soar instead. Something else, while crows typically walk, ravens combine hopping and walking.

– Head Shape

Similar to their more extensive body structure, ravens have slightly larger heads compared to crows. When flying, they extend their head and tails and take the shape of a flying airplane.

It is common to hear several people refer to them as the famous flying X plane because of their elongated tails and neck. Moreover, ravens have fuller feathers around the throat and head, known as hackles.

If you look at perched ravens, you can notice them articulate a couple of behavioral presentations with their hackles. Mainly, ravens puff their feathers to pass a message on dominance or social rank. On the other hand, crowns have smoother hair familiar with other songbirds.

– Beak Shape

One disparity that differentiates crows and ravens from other birds is their sharp and strong beaks. Apart from coming in handy when feeding on a diverse diet, the birds also use the tough beaks to dig holes in the ground.

Usually, ravens have curvier and larger beaks than crows. On the flip side, crows have relatively straight and thinner beaks.

Even if both birds have bristles at the beak base, raven’s hairs are longer, thicker, and more prominent. In addition, the strands do not go all the way along the beak in contrast to ravens.

– Body Size

Often, experts compare raven’s body size with Red-tailed hawk. With a wingspan of approximately 3-5-4ft, this is slightly larger than the crow’s length at 2-5 ft. Adult ravens often measure 24 to 27 inches and weigh an average of 40 oz. Contrarily, crows weigh about 20 oz and measure 17 inches from head to tail.

At first glance, the skin color appears black. However, if you take a closer look, you can observe that ravens have a slightly glossed appeal with gleaming purple, blue and green hues.

Crows have a lesser sheen, with the feathers portraying a bit of blue and purple colors.


Even though ravens and crows share some similarities, their natural lifetime differs considerably. Often, ravens enjoy a stretched-out lifespan of about 30 years. In contrast, a healthy crow lives for roughly eight years. Like other living creatures, these corvids die from ailments, accidents, or old age.

Mostly, they are vulnerable to West Nile disease. This is a life-threatening viral infection that affects human beings as well. For centuries crows have been associated with forecasting death.

The main reason is that these birds are scavengers who feed on dead bodies. Therefore, it is not unusual to find them around battlefields, cemeteries, or in places where people and animals are anticipated to die.

Food and Diet

Thankfully, raven and crow strong beaks enable them to enjoy an opportunistic omnivore’s diet.

That means that these birds indulge in varied diets from carrion insects, garbage, lizards, dead bodies, and fish. In addition, these birds feed on fruits, berries, grains, or basically any human food leftovers.


Indisputably, crows and ravens are some of the most intelligent creatures worldwide. In reality, science compares this intelligence with the IQ level of seven-year-old children.

Amazingly, these birds can solve complex problems, hold group discussions amongst themselves and comfortably make some abstract reasoning.

Ravens appear more knowledgeable by imitating more voice calls and using stunts when attracting mates. You might find ravens somersaulting, barrel-rolling, or flying in an inverted position during the mating season.


Generally, crows produce a caw-caw sound while ravens croak. Still, there are several variations of these vocalizations which lead to specific patterns. When making sounds, the raven’s hairy area around their neck and throat expands. This is a trait not visible with crows as their neck area remains smooth throughout.

All in all, Corvids produce sounds to communicate and scare trespassers. It is common to hear dominant females make swift knocking sounds that last a second barely.

Wrap up

Nothing beats the intelligence and sociability of ravens and crows in the bird’s kingdom. Unlike other species, ravens and crows regularly engage in fun games and stunning aerobic displays.

Most striking, they both distinguish human faces and are gifted enough to learn clever tricks and hold ‘conversation’ with humans.

With their long-time associations with death and despair, they make ideal pets to gothic people and pagans. However, avoid taking home common ravens and American crows because it is considered illegal. Instead, seek correct information from reliable breeders on the safest Corvids you can keep as pets.

avatar William
William is a respected pet enthusiast with expertise in reptiles and birds. With extensive experience caring for these animals, he shares his knowledge through engaging and informative articles in various publications. He is an active member of pet-related organizations, volunteering regularly at shelters and promoting animal welfare and conservation. read more...

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