What’s the Difference Between a Raven and a Crow?

The difference between a Raven and a Crow might seem obvious to some, but there’s a bit of a mystery for others. The confusion stems from the fact that these two birds are so alike in appearance and behavior that one might easily confuse the two. However, they are in fact different species that belong to different genera.

In this article, we will be looking at the differences between ravens and crows. The main physical and behavioral characteristics will be discussed and the differences in their diet and nesting habits.

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Physical Differences


The first thing that sets these two apart is size. Ravens are significantly bigger than crows, measuring up to 56 cm in length and weighing up to about 1.6 kg. This makes them about three times bigger than the common crow, which only measures around 15-20 cm in length and weighs about 300 grams.


The beaks of these two creatures are also fairly different. While the raven’s beak is slightly thinner than a crow’s, it is still relatively large and has a slightly hooked appearance at the end. The beak of a crow, on the other hand, is more squarely shaped and broader. These differences can be best observed when looking at the two from above.


Ravens also have slightly grayish feathers in color compared to the darker black feathers of the crow. The raven’s feathers are also more fluffed up and appear softer than those of a crow.


In terms of color, a raven is typically black, although it can also appear blue or purple under certain lighting. Ravens can also appear dark gray at a distance, which helps them evade predators that might be several kilometers away. On the other hand, crows have more distinct coloring. They tend to be black with white markings on their throat, beak, and wingtips.

Behavioral Differences

When it comes to general behavior, the main difference lies in how the two treat others of their own kind. While crows are usually fairly social with each other, ravens tend to lead more solitary lives.

When raising their young, crows will find a mate and stay with that mate for life. Once they have chosen a partner, they will take turns guarding the nest while the other goes out to get food. A pair of ravens, however, will choose separate mates and only reunite to breed.

Ravens are also much less predictable than crows when it comes to feeding habits. While crows can generally be seen foraging in groups, ravens are more likely to hunt for food on their own.

Diet and Hunting Behavior

Perhaps the most noticeable difference between ravens and crows is in their diet preferences.

What do crows eat?

Crows are omnivores, which means that they eat both meat and vegetables. They have also evolved to eat almost anything they come across, which has made them a rather successful species. They have been known to eat insects, berries, seeds, small mammals, carcasses, and even small reptiles. Many farmers consider them to be pests, as they will often steal food from farms and orchards.

They are also very intelligent animals. They have been known to drop hard-shelled nuts and other difficult objects on the ground in order to break them open. They will also toss small stones at human objects like cars and windows in order to get the attention of potential prey.

What do ravens eat?

As with most birds in the order Coraciiformes, ravens are omnivores. They have the usual herbivore/carnivore diet of vegetables, fruit, nuts, and berries but they are not averse to eating small mammals, reptiles, insects, and rodents. They’ve also been known to hunt fish. Their diet varies from region to region, depending on what food is available.

In captivity, it has been found that their digestive systems are much more adaptable than those of other birds. They have the ability to digest things that other birds would not be able to, such as small portions of meat and fish.

Hunting Behavior

When it comes to hunting behavior, crows tend to be cautious in their pursuit of prey. They often observe potential prey from a distance and then swoop in quickly for the kill.

Ravens, on the other hand, tend to attack in a more straightforward manner by chasing prey until it is exhausted. They also have been known to dive-bomb potential threats in an effort to scare them away.

Ravens are able to kill animals that are many times their size, such as moose, sheep, and calves. They have even been seen killing seals right off of the shoreline.

The Deceased and its Carcasses

In the wild, animal carcasses are often available for scavengers to eat. In both instances, ravens and crows will be able to eat whenever they please.

Ravens tend to prefer the meat of carcasses that are just starting to rot or have begun to rot already. This is due to it being easier for them to chew and swallow since it is softer.

Crows, however, tend to favor the meat on carcasses that have only begun to rot. This is due to it taking a little more work for them to get to the soft meat, and as a result, they end up consuming all of the meat rather than just the easily accessible parts.

Other scavengers, such as coyotes, wild dogs, and bears will come along and take whatever the crows and ravens have left.

Ravens and Crows as Enemies

Due to their similar diets, ravens and crows will commonly compete with one another for food. This can sometimes lead to physical confrontations between the two species. In fact, it is not uncommon for crows to get into fights with other crows, so ravens are not necessarily their only rivals.

Despite their differences, ravens and crows are able to coexist via sharing carcasses or hunting separately. So even if they are eating the same thing, they will not necessarily be at the same location at the same time.

In addition, both species are able to adapt their behaviors in order to avoid each other. For example, crows will make loud, high-pitched calls in order to let other crows know of a potential threat. This lets them fly away in time before a raven shows up and potentially attacks them.

Ravens, on the other hand, will only attack when they outnumber the crows. Usually, this is by three or more. They will almost always attempt to scare the crows away rather than kill them. This is due to ravens being more equipped to fight as adults than young crows.

The fact that crows and ravens live alongside each other in areas where both are common, yet tend to eat from separate carcasses shows how they have evolved to get along with one another. This is because they have found a way to share the food supply without it depleting too quickly.

Social Behavior

Crows are very social creatures. They live in groups and stay with the group their entire lives. In some cases, members of a family will stay together.

There is also a hierarchy within the group. Usually, the most powerful crow is considered to be the boss crow. He makes all of the decisions for where the group lives and where they forage for food. He also leads the group in deciding when to fly away from a bad situation.

Some studies have even shown that crows may actually have proper funerals. When one of their group members dies, the others will gather around the body and call out. They do this until the body is taken away by another creature or until it is removed by a human.

Ravens are not quite as social as crows. In fact, they are quite solitary creatures. While they may nest in groups or near other raven nests, they tend to live and hunt alone. While there is not a hierarchy in most raven groups, females are always dominant over males.

How do crows communicate?

Crows have a number of ways of communicating with each other. Most of their communication is non-verbal. They tend to use eye contact and physical gestures to address other crows. If one crow is injured or finds food, it will call out to the others and lead them to it.

The popular idea that crows have a language of their own is not entirely true. While they do have their own unique calls, these are only used in very specific situations. For the most part, crows tend to make a lot of noise when they are together. The noise can be compared to that of a wild party. They will all gather in a large group and just make as much racket as possible.

How do ravens communicate?

Ravens actually have a very complex language of their own. It is most comparable to that of a human language, with a few differences. They make different sounds when communicating with those in their group and with other ravens. They also use various facial expressions and body gestures to get their point across.

The most interesting thing about raven communication is the fact that they have different warning calls for various types of threats. These calls have been observed and recorded, and they have found that ravens have different calls for different threats. If a human is approaching, they will call out a warning in their language. If an eagle is approaching, they will warn of that instead. They can even differentiate between a human with a gun and a human with a camera.

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Interesting Facts about Ravens and Crows

  1. Crows and ravens typically build their nests in trees or on cliffs, but they have also been known to nest on the ground.
  2. When threatened, crows will group together in large numbers and make loud noises in an effort to scare the intruder away. Ravens are less social than crows and prefer to run away or avoid conflict whenever possible.
  3. Traditionally, crows have been viewed as a symbol of bad luck or death. They have also been known to symbolize sudden changes and illogical actions. Ravens are traditionally viewed as a symbol of nobility and intelligence. Many Nordic tribes believed that they were the spiritual messengers of the gods.
  4. Crows are highly social animals that often nest in large colonies. They can sometimes nest alongside ravens but are much less likely to do so than with other crows.
  5. Ravens and crows both typically have a call that is much deeper than that of similar birds.
  6. A group of crows or ravens are known as a “Murder”.
  7. Ravens and crows have been known to live up to twenty years in the wild and up to fifty years in captivity.
  8. The largest species of crow is the Mariana Crow. It is also the largest species of all birds native to the planet.
  9. The smallest species of the raven is the Little Raven, which is only slightly smaller than its cousin, the American Crow.

Frequently Ask Questions

1. How do you tell a raven from a crow?

To the untrained eye, it can be difficult to tell a crow from a raven just by looking at it. Both are all black with a thick coat of feathers and appear quite similar in size and shape. They both have a heavy, hunched appearance and thick, black beaks.

In truth, ravens are slightly larger than crows and have a wider beak. The easiest way to tell them apart is by their calls. Crows make a long, low, and very harsh-sounding call. Ravens’ calls are higher pitched and more melodic.

If you still aren’t sure which bird you’re looking at, the best way to be sure is to see if there is a streak of white feathers in their wings. This denotes that what you’re looking at is a crow. Ravens have completely black wings.

2. Can crows and ravens hurt you?

Crows and ravens are wild animals, and as such, should be treated with caution. While they typically avoid humans, there have been a few recorded incidences where groups of them have attacked humans.

As with any animal, it is always best to give them their space and never attempt to touch or grab them. They may see this as a threat or attack, and a group of the larger ravens, in particular, could present a real danger to small children and animals. Large groups of crows and ravens have been known to attack hunters as well.

It should be noted that their beaks and claws are quite sharp and can easily draw blood. Their bites also carry the risk of being infected, as with any other wild animal.

That being said, most crows and ravens pose very little threat to humans and are not aggressive towards us in any way. They should be treated with respect as with any other animal, and if you leave them be, they will almost always leave you alone.

3. How far can crows and ravens see you?

The corvid family all have exceptional vision. They are able to see in color and their vision is based on movement. This means that they can see long distances, but only objects that are moving. This combined with their exceptional memory allows them to keep track of many different objects and potential dangers from far away.

Crows and ravens also have a complex system of facial recognition, allowing them to see if an individual is a threat or not. This is based on a combination of memory and individuals’ facial features.

4. Are ravens and crows intelligent?

This is a question that many people wonder about. Most people think that they are not, as they simply mimic the sounds around them rather than create their own. However, new studies have begun testing this theory.

Crows and ravens have a level of intelligence on par with dolphins and the great apes. They are able to use tools, solve puzzles, and exhibit complex problem-solving skills. There is also some evidence that they have a certain degree of empathy.

It is a common misconception that corvids are stupid birds because they have a large brain in comparison to their body size. It is, however, true that their brains are nowhere as large when compared to their body size compared to other birds and some mammals. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t intelligent; it just means they have less need to use it (much like whales).

Crows in particular have been shown to create their own calls. This is something that was only discovered recently; even though humans have been interacting with crows for thousands of years.

The fact that they can create their own calls shows a high level of intelligence. It is also believed that they can attach different meanings to different calls. For example, if there is a dangerous predator in the area, they will call out a specific cry to let the other crows know.

Some researchers believe that they may even be able to count. How do they test this theory? By dropping objects of different numbers behind them and seeing if the crows can identify how many objects have been dropped.

The ability to count is something that has only recently been discovered in animals. Most people did not believe that animals were smart enough to differentiate between 1,2,3, etc., and actually, count. Crows are among the few that have shown an understanding of numbers greater than 2.

While crows may not seem like the most intelligent animals at first glance, they are actually quite intelligent when it comes to their own survival. Their social skills aren’t as good as those of some primates or even other birds; however, they do know how to work together in the event of an emergency.

Ravens in particular have been shown to exhibit complex problem-solving skills and the ability to create tools. They also seem to have something close to human-level intelligence when compared to other corvids.

5. Why do crows gather around dead bodies?

Crows and ravens are omnivores, which means that they eat meat and plants. They will scavenge for food if need be, but their diet primarily consists of small mammals, fruits, eggs, and seafood. They will eat just about anything though, from insects and spiders to scraps left by humans.

Despite this varied diet, these intelligent birds also enjoy the occasional indulgence. They have a taste for meat that has spent time hanging on the bone. They aren’t fussed about whether this meat is dead or alive, either. If they find a creature that is still breathing but severely injured, they will peck it to death and then eat it.

We’ve all seen these birds gather around the site of a car crash or some other injury to a human or animal. It isn’t because they’re trying to help, though. They’re drawn to the smell of blood and the possibility of a free meal.

They have also been known to harass humans for food, especially during the winter months when food is scarce. They will swoop down and try to steal belongings from people, or even snatch food out of their hands.

They are quite territorial creatures and will viciously attack other birds, mammals, and reptiles if they feel their territory is being threatened. It’s not uncommon to see a crow with the head torn off of a snake or the shell of a turtle, for example.

6. Are they vermin or endangered?

Due to their diets, crows and ravens will commonly be considered pests. They are known to eat crops, insects, and even young livestock. In some cases, their eating habits can actually cause harm to the environment, especially if there is a large number of them living in one area.

However, despite the harm they can cause to certain areas, they are also seen as helpful due to eating insects and crop-eating pests. This makes them a sort of double-edged sword when it comes to being considered good or bad.

Crows are least likely to be considered pests since their diet tends to consist more of animals rather than crops or plants. They also tend to eat the dead animals rather than killing the living ones for food.

Nowadays, both ravens and crows are considered species that are not under any immediate threat. Many areas have actually protected them under the law due to the benefits they provide to the environment.

They are much less likely to be harassed, shot, or targeted in any other way. While they may still be affected by living near human populations, this is mainly due to people disliking their habits rather than wanting them gone completely.

While it’s true that ravens and crows may eat your crops, eat your dead livestock, or make noise outdoors at night; they also help keep other populations in check. As stated before, they also provide a helpful purpose when it comes to eating insects, pests, and potential disease carriers.

This means that killing them for simply being ravens or crows is not usually done anymore. Their value to the environment has outweighed the harm they cause in most cases.

7. Are crows and ravens dangerous?

Crows and ravens can be very dangerous animals. They have excellent sight (described above) and hearing, as well as a very good memory. There are numerous stories of these birds attacking people for various reasons.

It is very dangerous to aggravate a crow or raven. They will remember you if you hurt them and return to attack you another day. They will also alert other crows to come and join in the attack. Once a large number of crows are after you, it can be difficult to get away. They have been known to attack people for hours, continuously pecking at their eyes and other sensitive areas.

It is also possible for them to carry diseases that they can pass onto humans. For this reason, it’s important to avoid getting too close to them. Even if they don’t mean you any harm, you never know what diseases they have picked up and are therefore carrying.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. We hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about these fascinating creatures.

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