Corvids: Corvus Corax

The common raven (Corvus corax)Ā is a large birdĀ whichĀ can beĀ mistakenĀ for the American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos). BecauseĀ both birds are black and because some American crows can grow to be quite large, they are often confused.Ā Ravens, however, are one of the largest of allĀ Corvidae ā€” significantly largerĀ than an American crow.

There are several ways to tell the two species apart, here are three:

#1 Beak shape

Underneath the bill of an American crow, the throat feathers are neatly tucked-in close to the neck, but in a common raven there is a noticeable shag of what look like ruffled feathers, loose and off the throat. An American crow has a narrowerĀ beak, while a common raven has a noticeably dramatic downward curve on the upper mandible (upper beak) which comes to a point. The nasal bristles (tiny feathers that protrude onto the upper mandible) are also much longer on a common raven.

#2 Tail feathers

The silhouette of an American crow in flight reveals a roundedĀ arrangement of tail feathers. The silhouette of a common raven shows a more wedged looking arrangement, more in the shape of a diamond ā€” wide in the middle and then tapered off at the end.

Image Credit: Orietta Estrada

#3 Calls

The call of a common ravenĀ is unmistakably different from an American crow. The deep croaking of a common raven is much deeper in sound than anĀ American crow, and lesser known. The two links below will take you to the Macauly Library where you can choose from a number of audio recordings:

Common Raven: Audio

American Crow: Audio

Everything about the common raven is larger, longer, and more amplified than the American crow.


The YouTube video below shows the release of a rehabilitated common raven. It is a good representation of the size of a common raven because the people in the crowd provide a realisticĀ scale:

In this image the raven is on the left and the crow on the right. Note the tail feathers, wings, and size.


Image Credit: Stone Bird


The Common ravenĀ is a corvid, part of theĀ family Corvidae under the genus Corvus. CorvidaeĀ include crows, magpies, jay, and othersĀ (Taylor 2014). Under the genus Corvus there are approximately 40 species.

ā€œFamilyā€ and ā€œgenusā€ refer to taxonomic ranks. Taxonomic ranks are how scientists categorize organisms/species.

Stay tuned for more information about Corvids!

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Featured image: copetersen

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