Compare and Contrast Ravens and Crows

16 Oct

I teach my 4th graders to compare and contrast in our study of California History.  I thought I’d practice what I preach.  🙂

American Crow . . .

American Crow

Common Raven . . .

Raven . . . toe tapping


Crows and Ravens are both large, black, shiny birds.  They are both exceptionally smart.  They are omnivores and tool users. Both types of birds have complex and long-lasting familial relationships.   Both types of birds are considered songbirds!  Both have been honored (although often reviled) in literature and popular culture.


Ravens are bigger than Crows.  They have bigger bodies, bigger beaks, and bigger feet.  The beaks of Ravens are stronger, more prominent, and have a slight hook to them while the Crows’ beaks are sharper and pointier. Crows are widespread and common but Ravens tend to be more reclusive.  Ravens are acrobats in the sky — they somersault, roll, and dive in amazing acrobatic displays.  Ravens have a pointed tail; Crows have a rounded or squared off tail.  Crows are known to join together into huge roosts seasonally.  Ravens have been known to form large temporary groups too but it is much less common.   American Crows are only found in the US while Common Ravens are found around the world.

Identifying your large black Corvid.

If they happen to be together, it’s pretty easy.  The bigger one with the bigger beak . . . that’s your basic Raven.  However, you aren’t likely to see them together.  I’m lucky in that they have chosen to live together at my school (hey, grade schoolers are a great source of food!).  Usually, you’ll see one or the other.  If you are on the East coast, you’re likely seeing a Crow.  On the West coast, it depends on where you are.  If you are in an urban environment, you’re likely to be seeing a crow.  If you are in the mountains, you are likely seeing a Raven.  Certainly, if you are in the Arctic . . . it’s a Raven!

16 Responses to “Compare and Contrast Ravens and Crows”

  1. Miz S 16 October, 2008 at 2:01 am #

    Thank you! I will continue to search for the Ravens.

  2. jayne 16 October, 2008 at 2:38 am #

    It’s so helpful to see them side by side like this Liza! Thanks for the lesson on the differences. :c)

  3. Pam 16 October, 2008 at 4:20 am #

    This is great! I see and hear tons of crows here. I’ve seen ravens in AZ and CA, and I love them, too. ‘The Raven’ by Edgar Allan Poe always comes to mind when I see ravens.

  4. robin andrea 16 October, 2008 at 7:10 am #

    I really appreciate this lesson, liza. I am never quite sure which one I’m looking at, but this comparison helps immensely. Thanks for that.

  5. Crafty Green Poet 16 October, 2008 at 8:48 am #

    very good post, here we only get ravens in remote rural areas, specially by the sea. Crows are everywhere though in the north the black crow is replaced by the black and grey hooded crow.

  6. BEG 16 October, 2008 at 2:51 pm #

    I like the implication that grade school kids are a source of food for these guys. Wow! They can take down something that much bigger than them???

    😀 😀 😀

  7. Susan Gets Native 16 October, 2008 at 6:08 pm #

    We had ONE confirmed raven nest in Ohio this year. I may never see a real, wild raven. : (

    Good comparison!

  8. Wende 16 October, 2008 at 7:40 pm #

    Murder! That’s all I can say when looking at crows. Hee. Why do they call them a murder, anyhow?

  9. Liza Lee Miller 16 October, 2008 at 8:33 pm #

    I love the fanciful collective nouns. Looking into the etymology of the term “murder of crows” suggests that while it was in use as long ago as 1475 but no one is sure if it was in common knowledge or simply written down by some over-zealous glossary writer.

  10. Martha Schofield 30 January, 2010 at 6:35 am #

    We feed our family of crows(the same 7 come every day) our left over food.
    I have noticed two Ravens hanging around our house for the past month now and occationally coming down to pick at the food also. They are much more cautious then the crows.
    Im very excited to see them and love to hear all the calls and clicking and tocking they do when in the tall pines on our property.

    • Liza Lee Miller 30 January, 2010 at 7:35 am #

      That is so cool! We are the opposite at my school. We’ve had Ravens for years and years but the crows have only been there a few years. They are much more cautious. They all clean up after the kids snacks and lunches everyday. Thanks so much for posting a comment!

  11. Tora 22 May, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    Don’t Ravens also have a blueish tint to them? i remember being told that when looking at a big black bird that’s how i can tell. And since big black birds seem to stalk me and my friends. I see them a whole lot.
    I just saw one in my back yard along with another joining it when it toke to the sky. I’m pretty sure it was a Raven. i got the impression if my dog was next to it they’d be very close in height. and i have a beagle.

    • Liza Lee Miller 6 June, 2010 at 8:58 am #

      They do. I love their hidden colors! Thanks for visiting!

  12. Elle 29 September, 2011 at 4:52 am #

    Thanks Liza! We were in the car this morning on the way to work and saw what we thought were crows on the road. I said,”How do we know that we are not looking at a Raven. Does anyone know the difference?” No one answered, so I decided to look it up. I thought it would be a hard search, but you have made it easy. Thank you for helping me to learn something new every day!! Elle

    • lizalee 30 September, 2011 at 4:59 am #

      Very glad to help! And, were they crows?

    • lizalee 30 September, 2011 at 4:59 am #

      Very glad to help! And, were they crows?

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