Students often ask us how to tell the difference between a crow and a raven. Although the two birds are closely related, there are a few ways to tell them apart.
Ravens differ from crows in appearance by their larger bill, tail shape, flight pattern and by their large size. Ravens are as big as Red-tailed Hawks, and crows are about the size of pigeons.
In populated urban areas, ravens are uncommon. If you see a “really big crow” in the city, the chances are good that it really is a crow and not a raven.
Common ravens have a well-developed ruff of feathers on the throat, which are called ‘hackles.’
While flying, ravens soar more than crows. If you see a “crow” soaring for more than a few seconds, take another look – it might be a raven. Common Ravens can do a somersault in flight and even fly upside down. Ravens are also longer necked in flight than crows.
Raven wings are shaped differently than are crow wings, with longer primaries (or finger-like feathers) that have more slotting between them.
Finally, ravens have wedge-shaped tails and crows have fan-shaped tails