Let’s be honest; there is certainly a cohort of folks out there who likely believe that the American crow and the common raven are one and the same. While they do share a number of similarities, the reality is that these are two quite different species of birds and they are both incredibly common here in North America.

In all likelihood, you have encountered many of these birds throughout your life and can attest to a number of visits to your yard or the skies above. When it comes to which one you might be looking at, for many of us, identification can become a little bit tricky given the multitude of similarities these two birds share.

So how do you tell a crow from a raven?  Let’s break down some of the most common characteristics of each below…

 

From Below

Look up – way up! Both of these birds are extremely common and to catch them in flight is something many of us do on the regular.

Sure, they are both black in colour but much of their overall shape, the way they fly and the configuration of their feathers can lead to immediate identification. Firstly, common ravens are much larger than the American crow, more similarly resembling the size of a small to medium-sized hawk. Additionally, ravens also tend to glide in flight where the crow will often flap its wings much more during flight.

Physically, the tail feathers on these birds are also a dead giveaway when it comes to identification. The tail of the raven is more of a wedged shape, with longer feathers in the center of the tail, while the tail of the crow is more ridged and fan-shaped.

From the Ground

In addition to gauging the bird’s size, you can also tell the difference between the two by the way they walk or hop. While they both will walk on the ground, a raven’s walk is typically accentuated by a couple two-footed hops between steps, while crows traditionally walk like many other bird species.

With Your Ears

Ah, that familiar caw we can all identify with. That call is often paired with some variations of purrs as well as is the telltale sign of a crow nearby. Ravens, on the other hand, are throatier, so to speak. They are often identified by their variations of different croaks, scream, and shrills.