Crows vs Ravens: 5 Main Differences Explained

Written by Heather Hall
Updated: October 27, 2022
© A-Z-Animals.com
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Key Points

  • Often mistaken for the other, ravens and crows are different species of the same genus.
  • Crows vs ravens: ravens are much larger.
  • Ravens and crows also live in different habitats.

Crows and ravens are often confused with each other. In a comparison, there are enough similarities in physical features and terminology to believe that these birds are, in fact, the same. However, when you take a closer look at raven vs crow, there are key differences in their behavior and specific body parts which you can only recognize through observation even from a distance. Each bird also inhabits different areas and has its own symbolism in various mythologies.

They are in fact two different species of the genus Corvus, making them both corvids. Although the comparison is generally true between all crows vs ravens, for the sake of simplicity, the differences will be mainly between the common raven and the American crow.

Let’s make an in-depth comparison of raven vs crow below!

Comparing Raven vs Crow

CrowsRavens
SizeThe size of a rock pigeonThe size of a red-tailed hawk
AppearanceSmaller, straighter beak, blunt, fan-shaped tail, splayed wingsLarger, curved beak, wedge-shaped tail, and pointed wings, shiny feathers
HabitatUrban areasWilder, rural areas
DietMice, nestlings, eggs, frogs, earthworms, mollusks, seeds, fruits, and nutsCarrion, garbage and small invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals
IntelligenceClever; intelligence of 7-10-year-old child; can use tools and remember facesPlayful and cunning; can do as well as on intelligence tests as crows if not better; can make future plans for food and trade for it
SymbolismDeath and war symbolism (Irish); ancestral (Australian); protector of Dharma (Buddhism); trickster spirit (indigenous)Deity (indigenous); the symbolism of omens or deity incarnation (Irish)
Group behaviorA group of 3 or more, called a murderSolitary or in pairs
SpeciesA species of the genus CorvusA species of the genus Corvus
Lifespan7-8 years10-30 years
CallCawGronk or croaking sound

The 5 Key Differences Between Raven vs Crow

  • Appearance: In a comparison of size, crows are generally smaller than ravens. However, there are large crows and small ravens. Hence, the best way to distinguish a crow vs. raven is by looking at the appearance of its beak, wings and tail. Crows have a purple or green tint on blunt, splayed wings, while ravens have shiny feathers with blue or purple-tinted or grey and brown-tinted, pointed wings. Crows have fan-shaped tails and smaller, straighter beaks, whereas ravens have wedge-shaped tails with larger, curved beaks with a tuft of hair on top. When the crow fluffs its feathers, it looks like a mane or ruff and the raven’s feathers look ragged. The raven’s neck also looks longer in flight.
  • Habitat: Crows are more social and inhabit human-populated areas such as cities. Ravens prefer wilder areas and the countryside, where there are fewer people and they are likely to find carrion and small animals to eat, being more scavengers than hunters.
  • Group behavior: Crows tend to socialize in groups, and a group of crows is called a murder. Ravens prefer to be solitary or travel in pairs. Crows help each other raise babies, whereas ravens do not. They are also more likely to form bonds with humans and are a partly migratory species, unlike ravens. Crows can defeat ravens in flocks, although ravens are stronger.
  • Species:Crow” refers to any bird of the genus Corvus which includes crows, ravens, jays and magpies, but it is also a particular species in that genus. “Raven” is the type species of the genus Corvus, having a larger distribution over the Northern Hemisphere than any other corvid species.
  • Call: The crow’s call is a caw-caw sound that usually starts with one loud “caw” followed by several shorter caws. It’s very different than the long gronk or croaking sound of the raven. However, while the raven’s call is deep and guttural, the crow’s call is louder but higher-pitched and nasal.

Physical Appearance Raven vs Crow

Raven’s are generally larger than crows. They are longer and weigh more. Raven’s also have a greater wingspan than crows. When in flight, their necks will appear longer. Not only are their necks longer, but raven vs crow also will tend to fluff their feathers into a main whereas a crow will not. Raven tails are also different than crows and can be seen clearly when in flight.

Ravens have pointed wings and wedge shaped tails. However, crows will have a splayed wingspan and fan-shaped tails.

Intelligence Raven vs Crow

Crows are highly intelligent creatures and are known to devise ways of getting food and surviving in city or urban environments. In fact, researchers found that for certain water displacement tasks, crows perform as well as 7 to 10 year old humans. Crows can also form special relationships with humans who feed them regularly. For example. crows have been known to bring shiny gifts in exchange for food from people.

For intelligence, Ravens vs crows are similar, however, ravens are brainy birds and can perform just as well as chimpanzees and orangutans across tasks designed to measure the depth of intelligence in a creature. It is safe to say that there is very strong evidence to say that the tasks used to measure raven’s intelligence prove ravens are just as smart as great apes. Additionally, ravens are fantastic mimickers and are known to mimic human voice and tone.

Cultural

As mentioned before, ravens and crows are both symbolic and even sacred to many cultures. Crows are thought to represent change and transformation, specifically emotionally and spiritually. On the other hand, ravens can be perceived as bad omens but are also believed to be all-knowing, possibly relating to healing and longevity.

Symbolism in Raven vs Crow

In the symbolism of crow vs. raven, the British/Irish culture often portrays the crow as a symbol of death or war. For example, in a classic folk song written by British songwriter Sydney Carter called The Crow on the Cradle, he utilizes the crow as a character to prophecy of the impending doom of war, as demonstrated in the following two verses:

“The crow on the cradle, the black and the white,
O somebody’s baby is born for a fight.
The crow on the cradle, the white and the black,
O somebody’s baby is not coming back,
Sang the crow on the cradle.

Your mother and father, they’ll sweat and they’ll save;
To build you a coffin and dig you a grave.
Hushabye, little one, never you weep?
For we’ve got a toy that will put you to sleep,
Sang the crow on the cradle.”

Ravens are often set up as deities and also used as omens. The most famous example of the raven being used in more modern literature is in the poem by Edgar Allen Poe The Raven. The raven character is a talking bird that only says the word “nevermore” to the narrator, who quizzes the bird on whether or not he’ll be reunited with his lost love. He takes the raven’s responses as a dark foretelling that he will be eternally separated.

Up Next…

Ravens and crows are some common birds that can easily get mistaken for other black birds. Here are some helpful articles for better understanding these birds:


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crows vs ravens
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About the Author

I am a freelance writer with 22 years of experience. I live in the Pacific Northwest and am surrounded by nature. When I go for my daily runs I often see herds of elk, deer, and bald eagles. I am owned by two dogs who take me on hikes in the mountains where we see coyotes, black bears, and wild turkeys.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are Ravens as smart as crows?

Ravens do as well as crows on intelligence tests. Birds in the genus Corvus are some of the most intelligent birds in the world, second only to the parrot.

How big is a raven compared to a crow?

Generally, a raven is larger than a crow. In a comparison of the common raven and the American crow, the raven has a weight of 40 ounces with a length of about 21 to 27 inches and a wingspan of 45 to 54 inches, whereas the crow has a weight of 20 ounces with a length of 16 to 21 inches and a wingspan of 30 to 40 inches.

What are 3 crows called?

A murder.

Are Ravens louder than crows?

No, crows are louder than ravens.

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