Aussie Bird Count

What Bird is That? Ravens and Crows

Tuesday, 26 September 2023

  • Estimated reading time 5min

How to tell the difference between commonly confused birds: Ravens and Crows

In the leadup to this year’s Aussie Backyard Bird Count, our very own National Public Affairs Manager Sean Dooley is talking us through how to tell the difference between commonly confused backyard birds.

In this video, we’re learning all about Crows and Ravens – and the easiest ways to tell Australia’s 5 species apart according to their location and calls. Species include:

Put your knowledge to the test, register to take part in the 2023 Aussie Bird Count.

See below for the full video transcript. 


Sean Dooley (00:00):
The raven himself is hoarse. It croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan under my battlements, or was it a crow?

Sean Dooley (00:14):

In Australia, we have five species of ravens and crows. The difference between a raven and a crow, it’s pretty minimal. They’re very hard to tell apart. To be honest, really, it’s just the color of the down at the base of the feathers. It’s white in a crow and brown in a raven. So unless you actually catch one and blow on it, you’re not really going to know the difference. But there is a simple trick to knowing which raven or crow you are seeing.

If you live in a capital city, it’s very basic because every capital city only has one species. So if you are in Perth, Canberra, or Sydney, chances are you are seeing an Australian raven. If you are in Melbourne and Adelaide, it’s a Little Raven, and a Little Raven is basically only one centimeter shorter than an Australian Raven. So don’t worry and get hung up about the little term. They look basically the same size. If you’re in Hobart, it’s a Forest Raven, and if you’re in Darwin or Brisbane, it is a Torresian Crow.

Sean Dooley (01:16):

Now, if you are in areas, say like Alice Springs, which gets both Torresian Crows and Little Crows, or somewhere, say the North Coast of New South Wales, where you can get all five species of ravens and crows, there is another easy way to tell, and that’s the call that they make.

That standard call of the raven is slightly different with all the species.

The Australian Raven is the highest pitched, actually, but in some ways the loudest, and it’s got that three notes. You would probably know that call. It’s like it’s getting surprised, asking itself a question, and giving itself the answer.

The Little Raven is much more sort of regular. It doesn’t draw out its call nearly as much, and it’s a bit deeper in tone and pitch than the Australian Raven. The Forest Raven, which is the biggest of them all. It’s actually got the deepest and the slowest call, a very, very resonant deep call.

Sean Dooley (02:23):

Now, the crows are a little bit flatter in their call and they often call a bit quicker. The Torresian Crow, in some ways, can be quite variable, but it has more of a quacking quality than a calling quality. The Little Crow, which you only find in the really dry parts of Australia, has a very flat and nasal sort of call, almost like it’s doing a call with an American accent.

Sean Dooley (02:57):

So that’s the easiest way to distinguish your ravens from your crows. Get out there and identify your corvids with confidence.

Join in the fun, Register to take part in the 2023 Aussie Bird Count.