Prepare to enter the fascinating world of corvids, this beady-eyed and extremely clever family of birds are common across the world, but can you tell a raven from a crow, and are you savvy enough to know the difference? A note before we begin: these are American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) and common ravens (Corvus corax), read to the end to learn about the other species in this fascinating family.
Let’s start with the raven
Ravens are larger than crows. In general, common ravens weigh between 690 grams and 2 kilograms (1.5 to 4.4 pounds) and also possess bigger bills and a signature tail shape. In flight, raven tails are wedge-shaped, whereas crows have fan-shaped tails. Ravens have a group of throat feathers known as “hackles”, which are prominent, while crows have smoother throat plumage.
While crow and raven distribution does overlap in North America, crows are common across towns and cities, whereas it is much rarer to see a raven in an urban environment. Another way to tell the difference is by the calls of each bird: ravens are famous for their deep croaky call “gronk-gronk” while crows have the more typical "caw-caw" noise.
Moving onto crows
Crows are usually seen in larger groups, while ravens tend to travel in pairs. On average, crows have a lifespan of around seven to eight years in the wild, while ravens can live between 10 and 15 years.
Much smaller than a raven, crows are around a pigeon sized, whereas ravens are closer in size to a red-tailed hawk according to the Audubon Society.
Some honorable mentions
There are around 120 species in the Corvidae family, which includes not just the genus Corvus, with the crows and ravens, but jackdaws, rooks, choughs, magpies, and jays among many others.
In the UK, a crow would most likely be a carrion crow (Corvus corone), which is a common garden species, and also all black like the raven and the American crow. Also in the all-black Corvidae club are jackdaws, these smaller birds have bright white eyes that make them more easily distinguishable from the other species.
If you'd like to test your newfound corvid knowledge, check out the Twitter game #CrowOrNo