How to Tell a Raven From a Crow

These black birds may look similar in some ways, but several distinctive traits help set them apart.


Common Raven. Photo: Minette Layne/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Audubon: This story comes to you through a partnership between Audubon and BirdNote, a show that airs daily on public radio stations nationwide.

You’re outside, enjoying a sunny day when a shadow at your feet causes you to look up.  A large, black bird flies over and lands in a nearby tree. You wonder: is that a crow or a raven?

These two species, Common Ravens and American Crows, overlap widely throughout North America, and they look quite similar. But with a bit of practice, you can tell them apart.

You probably know that ravens are larger, the size of a Red-tailed Hawk. Ravens often travel in pairs, while crows are seen in larger groups. Also, watch the bird’s tail as it flies overhead. The crow’s tail feathers are basically the same length, so when the bird spreads its tail, it opens like a fan. Ravens, however, have longer middle feathers in their tails, so their tail appears wedge-shaped when open.

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