Crows, rooks and ravens are all part of the crow family, known as the corvids. The family also includes jackdaws, jays, magpies and choughs. These birds are intelligent, adaptable and able to exploit a wide range of food sources. But while the smaller members have distinctive features, crows, rooks and ravens can be trickier to identify. Here are our tips on how to tell them apart.

Did you know?

The hooded crow, Corvus cornix, is the carrion crow’s close relative. Found in northwest Scotland, the Scottish Islands, the Isle of Man and Ireland, it was only recently recognised as a separate species. Hooded crows are the same size and shape as carrion crows, but have a grey coloured body, with black head and wings.

Carrion crow (Corvus corone)

Appearance: fully black, with black feathers covering the face all the way up to a black beak. Fairly large with a wing span of 93-104cm.

When to see: year-round.

Where to see: primarily England and Wales. Common in both rural and urban areas, from city centres to woods and moorland. It is absent from the north of Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

Behaviour: generally quite solitary. This is the corvid you are most likely to see visiting your garden.

Raven (Corvus corax)

Appearance: the key distinguishing feature of a raven Corvus corax is its huge size! Their wingspan is 120-150cm – much larger than crows. They have thick necks with shaggy throat feathers and a thick, black bill.

When to see: year-round, though ravens are much less common than crows and rooks.

Where to see: primarily the west and north, mainly in coastal and upland areas. You’re unlikely to see wild ravens in urban areas.

Behaviour: unlike crows, ravens often gather in flocks. They nest on cliffs, rocky outcrops and large mature trees.

Rook (Corvus frugilegus)

Appearance: similar in size to crows, but their defining feature is bare white/greyish skin at the base of the slender grey bill.

When to see: year-round.

Where to see: common in the UK, often seen feeding in flocks on fields. In springtime, look up at groups of tall trees in farmland and woodland.

Behaviour: a very sociable species so you’re unlikely to see a rook on its own. Rooks build their nests right at the tops of trees, in noisy groups known as rookeries. You are unlikely to miss them!

Record your rook sightings

The Nature’s Calendar project asks the public to submit records of when they first spot a rook collecting nesting material. This is one of the ‘indications of spring’ recorded by 18th century naturalist Robert Marsham and just one of 69 wildlife species recorded for the project.

Over the last 19 years, our Nature’s Calendar records show rooks begin collecting nesting material between 27 February and 12 March on average across the UK. Keeping these records and building on them every year helps to track the effects of weather and climate change on our wildlife.

You can help by joining Nature’s Calendar to record your sightings. By taking just a few minutes to share what you see, you'll be adding to years of important data. Every record is crucial and valid. We couldn't do this work without you!

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Spot the signs of the seasons

Have you seen your first butterfly or swallow of spring? Or your first ripening berry or autumn leaf tint? Let us know what's happening to animals and plants near you and help scientists track the effects of climate change on wildlife.

Join Natures Calendar

Now you can tell rooks from other corvids, let us know when you first spot one with a beak-full of twigs this spring. Find a wood near you to start the lookout for rooks and lots of other bird species.

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