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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

BirdNote® - Ravens and Crows

Air Date: Week of

A Common Raven (Photo: Tom Grey ©)

Ravens and crows have long been the subjects of mythology and folklore. In real life, the birds often get a bad rap, especially on farmlands where they’re known to eat seed and grain. At first glance, not many people can tell the difference between the black birds. BirdNote®’s Michael Stein tells us what to look and listen for to differentiate the two.




GELLERMAN: Crows and ravens are birds of a feather. They’re the same genus – Corvus – and to borrow a punchline from comedian Rodney Dangerfield, ‘both don’t get no respect.’ But there are differences between crows and ravens, and in this BirdNote ®, Michael Stein tells us how to tell them apart.

STEIN: 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?

A Common Raven in flight. (Photo: Tom Grey ©)


STEIN: 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.

An American Crow (Photo: Tom Grey ©)

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.

A Common Raven (Photo: Tom Grey ©)

Listen closely to the birds’ calls. Crows give a cawing sound. [Crow’s caw, caw] But ravens produce a lower croaking sound. [Raven’s croak]

GELLERMAN: Quoth the raven……now you know. Our BirdNote ® was narrated by Michael Stein. For photos and more info, flock to our website- L-O-E dot org.



Crow and Raven calls provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.

Crow and Raven calls provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. American Raven recorded by R.S. Little, American Crow recorded by G. A. Keller.


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