The Difference Between a Crow and a Raven

Last week in central Oregon I took this picture at the top of Lava Butte.  Is it a crow or a raven?  Do you know the difference?  Look at the next two photos I took below- one is a crow, one is a raven.

Any idea which is which?  It is hard to tell, but they are very different birds.  There are a few good ways to tell them apart:

  • Ravens are much larger than crows.  They are about 6 inches taller and their wingspan is over a foot wider.
  • A Raven’s bill is larger than a crow’s.
  • Ravens will soar more like hawks.  Crows do this too, but not as much.
  • Their calls are very different.  Crows make the “caw” sound that we hear all the time.  Ravens make a “brronk” sound that actually reminds me of a frog.
  • Crow tails are rounded at the end like a fan.  Raven tails are wedge-shaped or, as my son says, they look like a baseball home plate.

If you live in town, odds are the big black bird you see is a crow.  They are much more common and crows and ravens do not mix very well.  According to The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley, crows will often chase off ravens just like they do to other large birds.

Below is another photo I took of the black bird atop Lava Butte.  It is not in focus (it’s hard taking pictures of soaring birds!), but the tail is very clear.  Which bird is it?  Looks like home plate to me- a raven it is.

  1. Mike Moran, a ranger of the East Bay Regional Park District, told us you can tell by their tails: “Crows are cropped, Wavens are Wedged”, but I like your son’s “Home Plate” description better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.