Crows and ravens: to the layman, they seem the same. But birders understand that they are different species. However, a question that begs to be asked is: can crows and ravens mate? Let’s find out!
Crows and ravens are black birds hailing from the same family (Corvidae). They are often confused with each other since they look quite similar in many ways.
In the wild, related species of birds and even animals do hybridize (mate with each other). Which raises the question: do crows and ravens also mate?
In this article, we will shed some light on these two species and look at whether they can mate with each other or not.
Do Crows Mate With Ravens?
Species that hybridize have some common traits. If none of these traits exist, it would be difficult for them to mate with each other. Do crows and ravens have these common traits?
For example, one trait could be that the two have a recent common ancestor.
The American crow and common raven do not show a recent common ancestor in their phylogenetic tree (a diagram showing the species’ evolutionary descent in a tree format).
Instead, their most recent common ancestor is as much as 7 million years old!
Another important aspect for the birds to mate is whether they are friendly and fly together. If they do not get along well, it indicates that they won’t mate.
These two bird species have a competitive relationship and can even be predatory to each other.
Neither of them likes to fly close to each other. Most often, the crow is chasing the raven.
Crow eggs are a food source packed with nutrition, and ravens often try to steal these eggs from them. This is why crows are aggressive towards them, especially during the breeding season.
Based on these three traits, we can safely say that ravens and crows don’t mate. However, there is more to this story!
Have Crows and Ravens Ever Been Mated Together?
Yes. In 1990, a wild American crow and a single raven successfully mated with each other in Toronto, Canada. The birds built a nest together and even fostered three little ones!
The hybrid babies were larger than crow babies (more raven-sized), and their tails also had the wedge shape that ravens have.
However, their heads were more like that of a crow. Their bills were shorter than crows normally have, and the bills had a bit of yellow on the gape.
However, we must note that this is an extremely rare case of love conquering all odds.
In general, the two species don’t reproduce with each other, and there is no other recent evidence of them mating.
Are Ravens a Type of Crow?
The word ‘Raven’ in Latin means crow. Going by this logic, you might be forgiven to think that ravens are very much crows! Well, it is not that simple.
Ravens and crows do share a very close relationship, evolution-wise. They both belong to the Corvus genus of the Corvidae family of birds, which also includes jackdaws and rooks, but both of them are species of their own.
While “crow” is a term that many people use for any bird in this genus, a raven is a term that people use for large black birds in the Corvus family.
The genus Corvus includes some 42 species, and 9 out of these 42 species have the term raven in them.
Another common trait between crows and ravens is that they are both largely monogamous; they both mate for life and only hybridize about 15% of the time.
But that is where the similarities between the two birds end. Let’s look at some of the key differences in the next section.
Raven vs. Crow: What Are the Differences?
Ravens and Crows share many morphological similarities (physical similarities, such as body shape, wingspan, type of bill, etc.), so differentiating the two can be tricky. However, below are some differences that you can use to identify them.
The common raven measures approximately 25 inches in length, whereas the American crows tend to measure about 16 to 20 inches in length.
Ravens are bulkier and weigh around 2.6 pounds, while crows weigh about 0.7-1.4 pounds. Even the carrion crow, which is slightly larger than the American crow, is smaller than the common raven.
Chihuahuan ravens are the smallest of their species. Even they are slightly larger than most of the crows (about 20 inches long and weighing about 1.2 pounds).
You should also note that both crows and ravens are very smart species. However, ravens are playful and might be slightly more intelligent than crows.
Ravens have not one but seven types of calls and can emulate and copy the calls of birds such as crows, jays, and geese.
Friendliness to humans
Neither crows nor ravens are particularly friendly to humans. If you go too close to a raven’s nest, be prepared to get attacked.
Crows can even remember the faces of humans who were kind to them and those who were mean to them!
Who would win in a fight?
Crows are the usual aggressors between the two. Despite their smaller size, crows are plucky, and you will find ravens running away from them.
Other physical Differences
Ravens have relatively longer bristles at the base of the beak than crows. Also, their beak is larger and curvier as compared to a crow.
The tail shapes of both Ravens and Crows are also slightly different. The former has wedge-shaped tails, and the latter has fan-shaped tails. These characteristics are key to differentiating these birds for most birders in the field.
Are Crows and Ravens Friends?
No, crows and ravens do not get along. They often attack each other in resource competition (competing for space and food).
We also mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating that crows are protective of their eggs, and ravens often try to steal them.
Crows take care of their chicks as a community; they can quickly gather when they see an invader coming near their nests.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a crow and a magpie mate?
Do ravens and crows fly together?
What birds can interbreed?
Can birds mate with other species?
A Few Final Words
To sum up, ravens and crows can mate, but rarely would you find it happening. What is common, instead, is ravens stealing eggs from crows’ nests, and then, to save their offspring, crow families come together in mobs and have aggressive fights with ravens.