Ravens and Crows

Which are Crows and which are Ravens; that is the ques­tion.

crows have square tails First of all, Ravens are larg­er with thick­er bills than Crows. Sec­ond­ly, Ravens have fanned tails and long sharply point­ed wings; Crow’s tails are blunt, their wings short­er and rounder; the dif­fer­ence is notice­able when in flight. Ravens love to soar for long peri­ods, Crows do not.

Like Mock­ing Birds, crows will mim­ic the sounds they hear. If you hear a strange-sound­ing dog bark­ing up in tree, it will be a Crow, not a Raven or a Mock­ing Bird.

Amer­i­can Crow, typ­i­cal caws

Juve­nile Crow caws

Com­mon Raven, var­i­ous calls

Raven, imma­ture, fren­zied calls

The pair of Senior Cit­i­zen Ravens sat on the bench below for sev­er­al min­utes while one of them (don’t know if it was Ma or Pa) rant­ed on and on – and on, about its trou­bled life. Bored, the oth­er paid no atten­tion what so ever. The ranter, mean­while, paid no atten­tion as to whether its mate was lis­ten­ing. (Does that sound like any human cou­ple you know?)

Ravens complaining about life

A flock of Crows is called a “Mur­der of Crows.”  I don’t know the term’s ori­gin but a flock of crows can be mur­der­ous. I know of three female White-tailed Kites here in Marin who were mobbed and killed by Crows in the last two years. The Kites vig­or­ous­ly defend them­selves but they are out­matched; an adult Crow weighs 16 ounces, Kites 12.

crow harasses kiteStill, it is not entire­ly one-sided. Once I watched a female White-tailed Kite taunt a flock of Crows who were sit­ting on the ground, by repeat­ed­ly div­ing at a patch of ground the Crows claimed as their own ter­ri­to­ry.

I thought it was strange because the patch was grav­el cov­ered by short grass, not at all where a Kite would expect to find a vole, or field mouse.

Short­ly the Crows were swirling and scream­ing around the nim­ble Kite, who slow­ly drew them far away from their spot. Once out of sight, the female’s part­ner arrived and pro­ceed­ed to hunt in the Crows ter­ri­to­ry, unmo­lest­ed by the out­wit­ted Crows.

crow flips into verticle flightCrows and Ravens are both great fliers, nim­ble and quick no mat­ter what the wind.

Ravens seem to love tur­bu­lent winds, they clear­ly enjoy the flips and twists the roil­ing winds throw them into, scream­ing loud­ly as they cor­rect and climb again for anoth­er thrill ride.

Much like chil­dren and adults scream­ing on a roller coast­er.

Crows love to come togeth­er in groups to social­ize, often to the con­ster­na­tion of humans. In Auburn, New York  25,000 to 50,000 Amer­i­can Crows  have tak­en to roost­ing in the small city’s large trees dur­ing win­ter since around 1993, much to the dis­may of the human res­i­dents who can hard­ly hear above the rack­et.

squawking crowA Crow giv­ing voice to his (or her) opin­ions.

Your com­ments & ques­tions much appre­ci­at­ed

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12 Responses to Ravens and Crows

  1. Dave Burness says:

    I heard a fas­ci­nat­ing Raven sound while snow­shoe hik­ing with friends in hill coun­try north of Ottawa, Cana­da. We were all sur­prised by the sound — a series of very clear soli­tary notes, each one sound­ing some­thing like a xylo­phone. Not a click — more like a woody bell.
    We heard them before we saw the raven. The soli­tary bird flew in a delib­er­ate straight line pass­ing direct­ly over us, mak­ing this note once every few sec­onds.
    I have no doubt it was delib­er­ate­ly check­ing us out, giv­en how its path was direct­ly over­head and low enough we could hear the dis­tinct whistling sound a raven’s wings make while flap­ping.
    I’m famil­iar with the antics of the res­i­dent ravens in the area but have nev­er heard this before. My best guess would be it was sig­nalling its mate that it had seen intrud­ers and was inves­ti­gat­ing.

    • admin says:

      The Ravens are great mim­ics, My daugh­ter told me she once saw/heard one imi­tat­ing an ambu­lance siren!

  2. Dave says:

    Click­ing sound that a crow makes what does it mean???

  3. Heidi Rictor says:

    I got to hear the click­ing sound of a Raven for the first time today. Utter­ly fas­ci­nat­ing to hear what we thought was a wood­peck­er peck­ing but Noooo, it was a raven click­ing.

  4. lorettaann says:

    Thanks so much for your very infor­ma­tive dis­play. I loved the sounds. I assumed that I was hear­ing crows, but I’ve heard the click­ing sounds and some of the oth­er raven sounds. I also had cor­rect­ly iden­ti­fied a juve­nile crow sound and I’m thrilled.
    My “guess” was also based on the behav­ior of the adults around the baby, as they tol­er­at­ed him get­ting up in their faces so much. End­less­ly fas­ci­nat­ing crea­tures.
    Thanks so much.

  5. Rob Browne says:

    Thanks for the clar­i­fi­ca­tion. I assumed they were crows liv­ing in the neigh­bor­hood (and some might well be) but the cry of the raven you post­ed is what I was hear­ing the oth­er morn­ing (albeit a bit slow­er). Now I’ll look a lit­tle clos­er at my sleek friends. Thanks for this won­der­ful blog.

  6. Patty Spinks says:

    Excel­lent infor­ma­tion on Crows and Ravens and loved that you includ­ed their calls. Thank you… Love your work!

  7. Corona says:

    Yes, I have won­dered what the dif­fer­ence was. Most inter­est­ing

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