On the trail, at the beach, in a parking lot, in a park or at a school, there always seems to be large black birds flying around among sea gulls exploring or looking for something to eat.

However, one of the black birds seems markedly larger than the other one.

Is it the same bird? Is it a crow? Could it be a raven?

Upon further inspection, there are tell-tale signs that will identify the bird as either a crow or a raven.

The American crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos, is significantly different than the raven.

Crows tend to flap when they fly, unlike the raven that soars.

To communicate, the crow purrs and has a raucous caw compared to the raven’s guttural croaking sound.

As a species, crows are a communal bird. They can be observed flying in large numbers.

Ravens tend to travel in pairs.

At sunset, you might see a many crows flying in the same direction away from the sun to get ready to roost at a chosen location.

Crows have roosted at certain locations for generations.

On land, crows walk. Ravens walk, along with several two-footed hops in between.

The common raven, Corvus corax, is a more robust bird that boasts major differences than its sleeker cousin.

Firstly, the raven’s wingspan ranges from three feet to five feet, whereas the crow’s wingspan can be from three feet to almost three and a half feet.

The raven has longer disheveled looking feathers under its beak that fluff out at times.

The throat feathers of the crow are flush to its neck.

An obvious difference between the two birds are their tails.

The raven’s tail flares out when in flight. It forms a wedge-type shape. The tail feathers reveal a tip on each one.

The crow’s tail shows a smooth curve, like a fan.

The beak of the raven reveals another recognizable trait. It is curvier and much larger than crows. It is thicker.

The raven’s beak is strong enough to pierce the skin of dead animals.

The crow must find an opening in the hide before it starts to eat.

While both the crow and the raven show distinct anatomical differences, they share similarities.

They both belong to the family Corvidae.

Both birds are omnivores. That is, they eat plant material and meat.

Their diets are similar in that they eat insects, lizards, the chicks of other birds, fruit, fast food and garbage.

Crows and ravens also eat carrion, dead animals.

As a predator and a scavenger, the two birds seek opportunity when it serves itself.

They will congregate where humans leave garbage or discarded food.

Research has been done on both birds showing that they are intelligent animals.

They have been observed using tools and employing strategies to get food.

One strategy is to throw or drop hard-shelled nuts on the ground to break them open.

I have witnessed this behavior at Aurantia Park in Highland.

Crows and ravens also can remember human faces.

After learning about the differences between the crow and the raven, you can now distinguish which is which when you see these birds flying around or walking in a park.

Bird watching is a favorite pastime that anyone can do.

It can be done on your porch or backyard.

Or, you can take a pelagic trip in the sea to watch birds that rarely touch land.

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