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Crows vs Ravens: 5 Key Differences Explained

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key point

  • Crows and ravens are often mistaken for different species of the same genus.
  • An easy way to spot the difference is that crows are much larger than crows.
  • Crows and ravens also live in different habitats, so it's unlikely to see them both in one place.
largest crow collar crow
Some crows and crows have white collars around the neck and chest.

©Agami Photo Agency/Shutterstock.com website

Crows and crows are often confused. In contrast, there are enough similarities in physical characteristics and terminology to believe that the birds are in fact identical. But when you look closely at crows vs. crows, there are key differences in their behavior and specific body parts that can only be identified by observation, even from a distance. Each bird also inhabits a different region and has its own symbolism in various mythologies.

They are actually two different species of corvus , so they are both corvids. While all crow-to-crow comparisons are generally true, for simplicity the differences will primarily be between the common crow and the American crow.

Let's do an in-depth comparison of crows and crows below!

Comparing Crows to Ravens

crow crow
size rock pigeon as big red tailed hawk size
appearance Smaller, straighter beak, blunt fanned tail, outstretched wings Larger, curved beak, wedge-shaped tail and pointed wings, shiny feathers
Habitat urban area wilderness, rural area
diet Mice, chicks, eggs, frogs, earthworms, molluscs, seeds, fruits and nuts Carrion, litter and small invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles and mammals
intelligence Clever; 7-10 years old intelligence; can use tools and remember faces Playful and cunning; can do as well on intelligence tests as a crow, if not better; can make future food plans and trade plans
Symbolism Death and war symbolism (Irish); ancestors (Australian); protectors (Buddhism); trickster spirits (Aboriginal) Deity (native); symbolic meaning of omen or incarnation of deity (Irish)
group behavior A group of 3 or more is called murder alone or in pairs
species a species of crow a species of crow
life 7-8 years old 10-30 years old
call cry grunt or rattle

5 Key Differences Between Raven and Crow

Close up portrait of a Common Crow (Corvus corax)
Common crows tend to travel alone, unlike their gregarious counterparts, crows.

©iStock.com/Tom Meaker

  • Appearance: In size comparisons, crows are usually smaller than crows. However, there are some large and small crows. Therefore, the best way to tell a raven from a raven is by the appearance of its beak, wings and tail. Crows have purple or green hues on their blunt, outstretched wings, while crows have shiny feathers and pointed wings in blue, purple, or gray and brown. Crows have a fan-shaped tail and a smaller, straighter beak, while crows have a wedge-shaped tail and a larger, curved beak with a tuft of hair on top. When a crow fluffs its feathers, it looks like a mane or a fur collar, whereas a crow's plumage looks ragged. The crow's neck also appears longer in flight.
  • Habitat: Crows are more gregarious and inhabit densely populated areas such as cities. Crows prefer wilderness and countryside, where there are few people, they are likely to find carrion and small animals to eat, preferring scavengers to hunters.
  • Group Behavior: Crows tend to socialize in groups, and a flock of crows is known as a murder. Crows prefer to travel alone or in pairs. Crows help each other raise their babies, and crows don't. They are also more likely to bond with humans and, unlike crows, are a partially migratory species. Crows can beat crows in flocks, although crows are stronger.
  • Species: "Crow" refers to any bird of the genus Corvus , which includes crows, ravens, jays, and magpies, but is also a specific species within the genus. The 'crow' is the type species of the genus Corvus , with a greater distribution in the northern hemisphere than any other corvid.
  • Call: A crow's call is a click, usually beginning with a loud "click" followed by several shorter clicks. This is very different from the long purr or rattle that a crow makes. However, while the crow's call is low and guttural, the crow's call is louder but higher-pitched and nasal.
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Appearance Crow vs Crow

Crow perched on an old wooden post
Crows and ravens are easily distinguished by their scalloped tails.

©iStock.com/CreativeNature_nl

Ravens are usually larger than crows. They are longer and heavier. Ravens also have a larger wingspan than crows. When flying, their necks appear longer. Not only are their necks longer, but crows also tend to fluff their feathers into a trunk, which crows don't. The crow's tail is also different from that of a crow, which can be clearly seen when flying.

Ravens have pointed wings and a wedge-shaped tail. However, crows will have flared wingspans and fan-shaped tails.

Intelligence Raven vs Raven

Common crow (Corvus corax) flying across a field.
Crows and ravens are the smartest birds.

©Marcin Perkowski/Shutterstock.com

Crows are very intelligent creatures and have been known to figure out ways to get food and survive in cities or urban environments. In fact, the researchers found that for certain drainage tasks, crows performed as well as 7- to 10-year-old humans. Crows can also form special bonds with the humans who feed them on a regular basis. For example. Crows have been known to bring shiny gifts in exchange for people's food.

For intelligence, crows are similar to crows, however, crows are intelligent birds that perform as well as chimpanzees and orangutans on tasks designed to measure the depth of biological intelligence. It's safe to say that there is very strong evidence that the tasks used to measure crow intelligence prove that crows are as intelligent as apes. Additionally, crows are excellent imitators, known for imitating human voices and intonations.

culture

Largest Crow - Indian Jungle Crow
Different cultures interpret crow tracks in various ways, both positive and negative.

©Marut Sayannikroth/Shutterstock.com

As mentioned earlier, ravens and crows are symbolic, even sacred, in many cultures. Ravens are believed to represent change and transformation, especially emotionally and spiritually. Crows, on the other hand, might be seen as a bad omen, but were also thought to be omniscient and may be associated with healing and longevity.

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Symbolism in Raven vs Crow

In crow vs. crow symbolism, British/Irish culture often depicts crows as symbols of death or war. For example, in a classic folk song "The Crow in the Cradle" by the British composer Sidney Carter, he used the crow as the character to predict the coming end of the war, as shown in the following two verses:

"The crow in the cradle, black and white,
Oh, and someone's child was born to fight.
Crows in the cradle, white and black,
Oh, someone's baby won't come back,
The crow in the cradle sings.

Your parents, they sweat, they save;
Build your coffin and dig your grave.
Hushabye, little one, don't you ever cry?
Because we have a toy that puts you to sleep,
The crow in the cradle sings. "

The common crow (Corvus corax), also known as the northern crow, is playing with stones.
The Raven inspired one of the most popular poems in American literature.

©Michal Pesata/Shutterstock.com

Ravens are often worshiped as gods and are also used as omens. The most famous example of the use of ravens in more modern literature is Edgar Allen Poe's poem The Raven . The crow character is a talking bird that only says the word "never again" to the narrator, who asks the bird if he will be reunited with his lost love. He takes the crow's reaction as a dark prophecy that he will be separated forever.

Crows and the lifespan of crows

The average life expectancy of crows and ravens varies by species. Most crows live about 5-15 years in the wild, depending on the type of crow. The oldest reported captive crow was Tata, 59, who served 11 U.S. presidencies and died in 2006.

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Crows generally live as long as crows, with an average lifespan of 10-20 years. Reports of crows living to 70 or 80 have been made, but scientists are skeptical because they have been unable to verify the claims.

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about the author

heather hall


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

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Are ravens as smart as crows?

Crows perform as well as crows on intelligence tests. Birds of the genus Corvus are among the most intelligent birds in the world, second only to parrots.

How big is a crow compared to a crow?

Generally, ravens are larger than ravens. Comparing the common crow and the American crow, the crow weighs 40 ounces, is about 21 to 27 inches long, and has a wingspan of 45 to 54 inches, while the crow weighs 20 ounces, is 16 to 21 inches long, and has a wingspan of 30 to 40 inches.

What are the 3 crows called?

a murder.

Are crows louder than crows?

No, crows are louder than crows.

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