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How to tell the difference between Ravens and Crows

difference between Australian raven and crow

Distinguishing Between Australian Ravens and Crows: A Comprehensive Guide


Australia is home to five species of ravens and crows, which belong to the Corvidae family. These intelligent birds are often difficult to distinguish due to their similar appearances. Knowing the subtle differences in their physical characteristics, distribution, and vocalizations, bird enthusiasts and nature lovers can confidently identify these fascinating creatures.

  • Physical Characteristics: Subtle differences in down feather color
  • Geographical Distribution: Species-specific ranges in Australian capital cities
  • Size Comparison: Little Raven only slightly smaller than Australian Raven
  • Vocalizations: Distinct calls as the most reliable identification method

Physical Characteristics

While Australian ravens and crows share many similarities in their appearance, there is one minor physical difference that can help in their identification. The colour of the down feathers at the base of their plumage differs between the two groups. Crows possess white down feathers, while ravens have brown down feathers. However, this distinction is only noticeable upon close examination of a captured bird and is not a reliable field identification method.

Geographical Distribution

One of the most straightforward ways to determine whether you are observing an Australian Raven or a crow is by considering your location. In Australia, each capital city is home to a specific species of raven or crow. Australian Ravens can be found in Perth, Canberra, and Sydney. If you are in Melbourne or Adelaide, you are likely to encounter Little Ravens. Hobart is home to the Forest Raven, while Darwin and Brisbane are inhabited by the Torresian Crow. By familiarizing yourself with the species common to your area, you can narrow down the possibilities.

Capital City Species
Perth Australian Raven
Canberra Australian Raven
Sydney Australian Raven
Melbourne Little Raven
Adelaide Little Raven
Hobart Forest Raven
Darwin Torresian Crow
Brisbane Torresian Crow

Size Comparison

Although size is often used to differentiate between bird species, it is not a reliable factor when distinguishing Australian Ravens from crows. The Little Raven, for example, is only one centimeter shorter than the Australian Raven, making it challenging to discern the size difference in the field.

Vocalizations

The most dependable method for identifying Australian Ravens and crows is by recognizing their distinct calls. Australian Ravens have a unique vocalization that sets them apart from other ravens and crows. Their call is higher-pitched and louder, consisting of three notes. This distinctive call is a reliable indicator of an Australian Raven’s presence.

In contrast, crows have flatter and quicker calls compared to ravens. The Torresian Crow’s call has a “quacking quality,” differing from the typical “coring quality” of ravens. The Little Crow, found in arid regions of Australia, has a flat and nasal call that some describe as resembling an American accent.


FAQs

Q: How do you tell the difference between a crow and a raven in Australia?
A: In Australia, distinguishing between crows and ravens is really tricky, as they share many physical similarities. The most reliable way to tell them apart is by their calls. Australian Ravens have a distinctive, high-pitched, and loud call that consists of three notes. Crows, on the other hand, have flatter and quicker calls. The Torresian Crow’s call has a “quacking quality,” while the Little Crow’s call is flat and nasal, almost like an American accent.

Q: How can you tell a crow from a raven?
A: While crows and ravens share many similarities, there are a few key differences to help distinguish between them:

  1. Size: Ravens are generally larger than crows, although the Little Raven is only slightly smaller than the Australian Raven.
  2. Feather color: The down feathers at the base of a crow’s plumage are white, while ravens have brown down feathers. However, this difference is only noticeable upon close examination.
  3. Bill shape: Ravens typically have larger, more robust bills compared to crows.
  4. Tail shape: In flight, ravens often have a wedge-shaped tail, while crows’ tails are more squared or slightly rounded at the tip.

Q: Do we have crows or ravens in Western Australia?
A: In Western Australia, particularly in the capital city of Perth, the most common species you will encounter is the Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides). This species is widespread throughout the state and is well-adapted to urban environments. While Torresian Crows (Corvus orru) can be found in the northern parts of Western Australia, they are less common in the Perth area.

Q: Is it a raven or crow in South Australia?
A: In South Australia, especially in the capital city of Adelaide, the most prevalent species is the Little Raven (Corvus mellori). The Little Raven is slightly smaller than the Australian Raven but shares many of its characteristics and behaviors. If you are in the Adelaide area and observe a black bird with a raven-like appearance, it is most likely a Little Raven. However, in some parts of South Australia, you may also come across the Australian Raven or the Torresian Crow, depending on the specific location and habitat.

Distinguishing between Australian Ravens and crows requires a combination of observational skills and knowledge of their unique characteristics. While physical differences are minimal and challenging to discern in the field, understanding the geographical distribution of each species can aid in identification. However, the most reliable method remains recognizing their distinct vocalizations. By familiarizing yourself with the calls of Australian Ravens and the various crow species, you can confidently identify these intelligent birds and appreciate their presence in the Australian landscape. As you venture into the natural world, keep your ears attuned to the sounds around you, and you will soon be able to distinguish the remarkable calls of Australian Ravens from those of their crow counterparts.

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