Raven or Crow?

“How do I tell the difference between ravens and crows?” This question was asked during a recent birding class at the Mahoosuc Land Trust and one I hear a lot. So, I thought I would offer a few tips.

Ravens and crows, both members of the Corvid family, are large, black birds. Both occur commonly in our area. Several tips help distinguish Common Ravens from their more often seen cousins, the American Crow.

Ravens are more reclusive and tend to avoid populated areas. Ravens are larger and heavier. Their bills are notably bulkier, and they have elongated feathers on their throats which are sometimes called “hackles”. A raven’s call is a throaty, “Gronk” versus the crow’s signature, “Caw”. A caution here – both birds are vocal and make different sounds and calls. Both have been documented imitating other animals and birds.

Raven or crow?

Raven or crow?

Both birds are strong and acrobatic flyers, often seen wheeling and cavorting in the wind. Ravens, however, can soar like a hawk for long periods. Crows can only glide for short periods without flapping. When seen flying, raven’s tails are often a give-away. A raven’s tail feathers form a wedge shape like in the picture above, whereas a crow’s tail is squared-off.

These are the primary clues I look for when I spot a large black bird here in our area.

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust which celebrates 30 years conserving the natural areas of the Mahoosuc Region. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at 162 North Road, Bethel, ME or at www.mahoosuc.org. To learn about upcoming events or to contact James, send your emails to info@mahoosuc.org.