Crows & Ravens : The Difference


Today I thought I would post a short feature outlining the difference in the Crow and Raven for those of you who may not know. Many people use the terms ‘raven’ and ‘crow’ interchangeably, but they are actually quite different. Technically, since ravens belong to the crow (corvus) family of birds, they can be called crows – but not all crows are ravens. The two differ in a variety of ways.

The following illustration shows the primary field mark. Crows have a fsquare fanned out tail, whereas a raven’s is long and wedge-shaped (top).

  • A raven weighs about four times that of a crow.
  • The wingspan of a crow is ~2.5 ft., ravens about 3.5-4 ft. (Ravens are “freaking huge”)
  • Ravens have pointed wings, while crows have a more blunt wing tip.
  • A raven’s bill is curved with a tuft of hairs on top, while a crow has a more-or-less flat, tuftless, bill and ravens have fuller neck feathers

Their particular color can also be noted. Both are iridescent black, although a crow’s feathers can have lighter markings as seen in the Hooded Crow. A raven’s feathers shine with a blue or purple tint when the sun hits them, while a Common Crow may look purple with green-tinted wings. Crows can fluff their feathers into a mane to show off, while a raven’s individual feathers are larger and pointier. Finally, if you see the bird with its tail spread, a crow’s tail curves evenly like a seashell while the tail of a raven meets at a triangular point.

Crows are tolerant of noisy, populated areas with people and other animals. This gives them their reputation for harassing the cornfields of farmers, since they like scavenging seeds, fruits, and vegetables in groups.

Ravens like privacy in their solitary hunt for insects, fruits, and carrion, so they’re more likely to be found in remote woods, meadows, and hills.

A raven often lives 30 years or more, while a crow only has an eight-year average lifespan.

Another easy way to tell from a distance is to listen to the voice: a Raven’s throaty croak sounds nothing like the “caw” of a crow. Click here for various sounds.

The below video shows the difference in size between an American Crow and hybrid Raven. Edgar is an African Pied Crow/White-necked raven hybrid: a “Craven”. The raven is quite a bit larger than the crow, but STILL not as large as a Common Raven!


Overall, the most obvious factor is size. Ravens are extremely large birds compared to what you may normally encounter, and will typically command a gasp or state of speechlessness for a moment if you happen to see one perched on a fencepost.

Here is a quick look at how crows and ravens size up to other corvids:

(From top to bottom) Raven, Rook, Crow (shown here as a hoodie), Jay(left) and Jackdaw (right),Magpie (left) and Nutcracker (right)

How often have you seen a Raven where you live?