Raven? Crow? Black birds all look the same, right?
Ravens and crows are often mistaken for each other because they look similar, live in similar areas and have the same mannerisms. Here is a quick guide to help you know the differences.
Both ravens and crows are members of the family Corvidae, which also includes jays, magpies and a few other birds. The two species that are most prevalent in Colorado are the common raven and the American crow, and they differ slightly
from species found in other parts of the world.
Size is probably the most noticeable difference between the two. In general, ravens are larger than crows. In our area, ravens are about the size of a red-tailed hawk, while crows here are the size of a pigeon.
Ravens have a more powerful and curved bill, with a tuft of feathers on top; a crow’s bill is smaller, flatter and lacks feathers. The feathers of a raven are shinier and sometimes appear to have a wet sheen, while a crow’s feathers are duller and may have lighter markings.
While in flight, the birds’ tails look different. A raven has tail feathers of varying lengths (longer in the middle), so when it spreads its tail, it makes a wedge shape. Crows have tail feathers that are all the same length, so when in flight, the tail opens like a fan.
Another big difference is in the sounds they make. Ravens make more of a low-pitched croaking noise while crows make a higher-pitched cawing. Ravens have a longer lifespan, living up to 20 years in the wild, while crows usually live about half that long.
The raven at the Pueblo Zoo is a Chihuahuan raven (the slight differences between that and a common raven can be found in the accompanying fact box). His name is Raven and he will turn 20 this month. He came to the zoo in September of 1995 after being at a rehabilitation center in Las Cruces, N.M., because he fell out of the nest as a baby.
Raven is now an animal ambassador in the zoo’s education department and spends time at schools and other outreach events in Pueblo. When he is not helping educate people, he lives behind the scenes at the zoo. He can say the word “hello” when asked, although he is pretty shy and will usually only do it when he is in his home and for a reward (his favorite food is the yolk of a hard-boiled egg).
Raven also can remember faces for years. A member of the Chieftain staff used to come to the zoo frequently when she was younger, because her mother was a volunteer and would spend time with Raven. Although she is not able to visit as frequently as she used to, she still stops by occasionally to visit with him and he always remembers her, no matter how long it has been (weeks, months, even years!), allowing her to pet his head (a rarity for even staff members).