Although, here on our mesa in North Central New Mexico, we have some Red Tail Hawks, Hoot Owls and the occasional Golden Eagle ...the number ONE bird of prey here is a tie:
Crows and Ravens
What is the difference between a crow and a raven?
Crows and ravens, although in the same genus (Corvus) are different birds. (Think of leopards and tigers; both are in the genus Panthera, and are obviously related, but they are quite distinct animals.) The words "crow" and "raven" themselves have little or no real taxonomic meaning. That is, the Australian "ravens" are more closely related to the Australian "crows" than they are to the Common Raven (Corvus corax). In general, the biggest black species, usually with shaggy throat feathers, are called ravens and the smaller species are considered crows.
Common Ravens can be told from American Crows by a couple of things. The size difference, which is huge, is only useful with something else around to compare them with. Ravens are as big as Red-tailed Hawks, and crows are, well, crow sized. The wedge-shaped tail of the raven is a good character, if you can see it well. Crows sometimes show an apparent wedge shape to the tail, but almost never when it is fanned as the bird soars or banks (except for a brief time during molt in the summer).
More subtle characters include: ravens soar more than crows. If you see a "crow" soaring for more than a few seconds, check it a second time. Crows never do the somersault in flight that Common Ravens often do. Ravens are longer necked in flight than crows. The larger bill of the raven can be seen in flight, but it is actually less apparent than the long neck. Raven wings are shaped differently than are crow wings, with longer primaries ("fingers") with more slotting between them. As my neighbor said, "Ravens are the ones whose wings you can see through." The longer primaries make the wings look more bent at the wrist than a crow as the bird flies, and the "hand" portion can look nearly pointed.
If seen perched in a good look, the huge bill and shaggy throat of a raven are diagnostic. The upper and lower edges of the bill are parallel for most of their length (3/4?) in ravens, while in crows the downward curve starts somewhere around 2/3 of the way out for males, and about halfway for females.
But remember, ravens are pretty uncommon around here [Ithaca, NY]. If you see a "really big crow!", chances are good that it really is a crow. Yes, there are large crows and small ones, but you couldn't ever tell which was which. Any difference in size (380g - 660g is the weight range around here; 800 - 950 mm wingspan) among individuals is not detectable, in that the range of appearance of a single crow (by fluffing or sleeking its feathers) is greater.
American Crows make the familiar "caw-caw," but also have a large repertoire of rattles, clicks, and even clear bell-like notes. However, they never give anything resembling the most common calls of Common Ravens. The most familiar call of a raven is a deep, reverberating croaking or "gronk-gronk." Only occasionally will a raven make a call similar to a crow's "caw" but even then it is so deep as to be fairly easily distinguished from a real crow. Ravens also make a huge variety of different notes. It has been said (attributed to native Americans) that if you hear something in the forest that you cannot identify (assuming you know all the common forest sounds), it is a raven. Cornell University
n fact, when night hiking, we heard what ended up being ravens ..making a sound like a male black bear looking for a mate!
Only..one night..when on the Rincon del Cuervo Rim Trail
..it was a
hunters moon and the ravens making this incredible sound ..could clearly
be see! Obviously it's intent was to literally scare up a rabbit or
So..which was our lead off picture for this article? A raven as evidenced by the wedged shaped tail, the long soaring time and this bird had seemingly, a 4 foot wing span!
Chihuahuas and Yorkies beware. One afternoon as we were entertaining some Chihuahua and Yorkie friends, a raven perched on our gate and eyeballed them with mal-intent for minutes!
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Painting By Featured Artist MJAckley "Sunset Behind Fall Tree II"