Raven or Crow?

Maybe you noticed me standing in front of Albertson’s last week.  I was wearing a red coat, staring up at a large black bird.  He was perched on a light pole and his squawking caught my ear the moment I opened the car door.

As I stood watching him, trying to figure it out—raven or crow—he lowered his voice.

Have you ever run your fingers over the teeth of a pocket comb?  That’s what it sounded like—the end where the teeth are closest together.  I stood still, trying to memorize what I was hearing, until he flew off.

Identifying ravens and crows has vexed me since I began paying attention to the birds in my neighborhood.

American Crow Photo Credit: goingslo via Compfight cc

American Crow
Photo Credit: goingslo via Compfight cc

Side-by-side, the field guide points out, it’s easy.  Ravens are significantly larger than crows (24 inches long versus 17.5 inches).  But that’s not the way it works in my backyard or the parking lot.  One-by-one, at a distance, it’s challenging. This time I focused more on sound than sight..

Common Raven Photo Credit: ConspiracyofHappiness via Compfight cc

Common Raven
Photo Credit: ConspiracyofHappiness via   Compfight cc

Back at home, I read this article that discusses the differences (wing  and bill shapes, social behaviors, flight patterns) between the two corvids. It was the bird’s location that was a big tip-off—he was scoping out a grocery store and fast food parking lot.  It’s the sociable crow that is much more likely than a raven to frequent urban areas.

To confirm I listened to the  various calls for both birds at allaboutbirds.org and was certain.  American crow.  Corvus brachyrhynchos.

Just in time.  The Great Backyard Bird Count is coming up February 12th-15th.


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