Caw vs. Croak: Inside the Calls of Crows and Ravens

Crows and ravens can be tricky to tell apart by sight, but their voices are much more distinctive. Watch this video for some expert tips on the sounds these two common birds make and what those sounds mean.

American Crows and Common Ravens have a repertoire of sounds beyond their signature “caw” and “kraa” calls. The crow often makes a rattle sound along with its territorial caw and also communicates through other click and bell-like notes. Ravens broadcast their presence through deep, throaty kraa calls. Narrator Kevin J. McGowan, an ornithologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, uses harmless wing tags to study crows around the Cornell Lab. In this video, he compares the calls of American Crows with those made by Common Ravens. To download a crow identification packet with sound files, click here [].

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  1. First time i came across ravens in the mountains they were quietly croaking. It was early in the morning and the mist was rising amongst the pine and hemlock. A family of ravens were slowly crackling amongst the branches. It was amazing, but beautifully eerie at the same time

  2. so i live in burlington vermont….for double digit years (im old apparently) ive watched my local murder of crows go from maybe a 35-50 group to well over 500 now in 2020. I believe they congregate on the main roads with donut, fast food restaurant etc etc type oppurtunities, but the longest they would fly from horse farm in shelburne/south burlington down shelburne road into colchester area by another farm on the winooski river. With numbers like they have they literally have own canopies of entire blocks in burlington proper…….Astonishingly smart, creative and apparently not being preyed upon because ive found a couple intact carcasses. i wanna learn more at 40!

  3. Argh! I was hoping you would tell us what the 'castenet' call means.
    Our crows here do that one a LOT!
    Our local flock flies from Lake Poway to points South in the morning, and back to the Lake (North) at dusk….with a lot of calling back and forth while flying. The stragglers are particularly noisy.

  4. I always know when Fox is near because the crows and ravens ….I can tell by the call. Then they dive bomb fox out of there territory. My personal chicken coop alarm system 😆🤣

  5. I have a family of crows living in the forest that is my backyard and I have started feeding them unsalted peanuts in the shell each morning. They are getting used to the routine and I see them circling overhead when I come out with the big bowl of peanuts. I will also start to put kibble mixed with the peanuts out there. My Carolina chickadees always eat up all the suet. I love these birds and smile each morning I wake up and hear their calls.

  6. Nice information, they also seen to have different alarm sounds depending the predator… for example, not the same alarm if they see a cat, than if they see a hawk. I am very impress of how smarts crows and ravens are. Most people have no idea about all these little black fellas can do.

  7. I feed the crows in my neighborhood, they are SO fascinating. I'm able to make some similar noises, and to their blue jay cousins too, and soon I have a bunch eating the food I put out (peanuts are their favorite). I cant duplicate the rapid clicking sound that crows make, but I caw and squawk like they do, and can kind of make a blue jay sound……. they seem to know that I'm telling them I'm putting food out just for them. They've even come to my yard and cawed to me when food is scarce and they're hungry. I sure do love my crow and blue jay friends!!

  8. I love to feed the community Crows Peanuts in the shell which they really love. It really gets their attention when I throw Peanuts and Crackers where I usually throw them. They make the caw and other sounds to get my attention when I don’t notice them looking at me sitting on the Palm branches looking at me. When they are flying over my backyard and see me outside, they fly back around whichever direction they were going and land on the branches waiting for some Peanuts.

  9. While walking in the park today, l see crows all the time.. I am use to hearing the cawing sound. But today l heard like a cloaking sound, l may not be spelling right. But you have the sound in the video it was my first time hearing that sound l stop and saw the crow up in the tree and it soon flew off.

  10. I remember hearing the old tales of Oden and his ravens Hugin and Munin as a child. Ever since Ive been fascinated with these animals. They are so beautiful and intelligent.

  11. Went to Walmart the other day, was on the sidewalk just before the doors by a trash can. Crow came down landed on the trash can about 2 feet from me and started talking to me. I say to me because he/she was looking at me and there was no one else around for a spell. He wouldn't shut up so I asked him/her "What? Timmy fall in the well? Did I do something to offend? Just came down to say hi, you like the soap I use? What?" Crow kept talking until another customer came up behind me wondering who I was talking to until she saw thew crow. Crow left when she said "I wondered who you were talking to." Sure would like to know what the Crow was on about!
    I've had a 7 year love affair with the Crows that live around my home, as Walmart is 4 miles from home, I wonder if that was one of the home Crows letting me know he/she recognized me?
    Love me some Crows and Ravens. Very intelligent birds! Full of personality, antics and to some small degree protection around the home front. They let me know when someone is about that doesn't belong.

  12. Whenever there are big hawks patrolling around, the crows are usually flying near them trying to terrorize them. It is amazing to see.
    Today, a squirrel mother (of 5 babies) knew the hawks were around before I ever heard or saw them. She stood stock still for about 5 minutes, just watching – i knew she was alarmed. She coralled all her babies up the tree to safety and then 5 minutes later the hawks arrived.
    There is a crow here that must have had some human contact because it usually says "hello" – especially when it see me. The other wild ones have learned to say it, too. Its funny to hear them announce themselves.
    I have not identified any ravens yet, but I am sure they are around here somewhere – in central NJ.
    Mostly i see bluejays, cardinals, woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees and grackles visit my yard. We have only one pair of yellow finches that I see occasionally. Purple finches and house finches should be around but I never see them.
    Your videos (and Cornell) have really helped me learn about all the birds around my yard! Thanks!

  13. I just watched your caw versus croak video, from 2014, because I was questioning whether crows and ravens caw in loud rapid succession when there is a predator in their area. And I'm here to tell you they do! First-hand experience now within the last few days, twice I have noticed that they do act as a warning when a coyote has been in my area. I was amazed! So now I always gave out the window when I hear their unusual incessant squawking as a warning to heed! amazing! Who knew?👍

  14. We have had 2 ravens that live in the tree behind our house. And they have lived here for years. One day 3 other ravens showed up. And one of them sat in the tree and "sang" almost non stop for 3 days straight. It has been a month now. And those 3 other ravens have not left. Can someone tell me what reasons would the raven have to sit and sing for those 3 days? And would there 3 babies come back from last year?

  15. The crow family that has come to nest in my yard 6 years, talk with me a lot and I have figured out some of it as they have mine (ex: breakfast) Of their caws, one panicked one sounds like CAT!!! and every time I go around to where they are yelling, I find a cat to run off so it works well

  16. Entertaining thieves, my friend made me blueberry cake, left covered on my doorstep, I got home found few crumbs, she called asked how cake was, I said crows seemed excited, me I'm still wondering?

  17. me too, i leave cat food out especially for them and they know that it will be there every day so the fam shows up for a snack every morning, and i can hear when they are coming

  18. Thanks for the video & info! I searched & searched for a video/page to help me differentiate the calls between the raven & crow. I'm still A LITTLE confused lol, but this was the best video I saw so far!!

  19. Thank you for sharing this!! I never knew the difference between the two. I love listening to the sound of crows and ravens, at one time in my neigborhood, the crows were gone to a disease. It was really sad, but now we have them all the time. I am so happy to say. =;)

  20. In the background of the crow rattle i heard a “cluck” almost, it’s a sound I’ve heard with my local American crows (Saint Cloud FL), what is it? Is it a cluck? I thought it was them imitating my neighbors chicken and i haven’t heard it in other videos except the background of this one

  21. I had some students who asked me what the difference between their calls were, and made them to swallow then say "caw! Caw!" Then gather all their spit and put it right at their throat then try to say "caw caw" again. They wont stop cawing and croaking now.

  22. I just had a raven watching me while I was watering my plants. They made these occasional hiccup noises, which is how I realized they were there. I wondered if they were trying to get my attention or if they actually had hiccups.

  23. Our crows on occasion make a very distinctive sound that is like a muted trumpet (or trombone) – reminds me of the cartoon or vaudeville precursor of the laugh track. Wahp-wah-waw or some variation on that. It seems like some social situation talking since we've only heard it when things are relatively calm and settled. Does that sound familiar? Anybody know what they are saying?

  24. I saw an absolutely massive bird today which was either a crow or raven. He was twice the size of other crows close by. He had this deep throaty call which sounded more like a seal. Anybody know what this call could mean?

  25. Uk viewer.
    With back ground….I have an ear for downed birds in spring and almost every year minus the first and two in between in 27/28years I've had jackdaws.
    Needless to say this year saw two rooks (adults sent my way, then on to an animal hospital)
    What I've found is..
    With the jackdaws living local, even tho kikoshi the 10th of 11 this year was inside for the first week or two, that his parents that live about 200m away come daily since he's been outside. Like him, his dad has white marks so easy to spot. His mum, all black and only known about her as she's come into the garden for a walk with him……and me. She's done this a few times Inc the car park.
    As for the rooks.. the first was a male and had ether a rib or keel break….No avian expert locally and no vet willing to xray for me, even if held without gas.. the first thing I noted that weekend was the local pair was single, and she made her presents known with mutters to me and my brother. I said at the time I bet she's his partner (I'm sure now) she last saw him in the pen, and its been covered so she can't see in since he went. She comes daily at Sun up, and in the day, she's coming closer each time and now only about 4/5m away to the roof.
    With her, I aim to capture her call and sent down to him while at the hospital, kind of a pick him up, in return I'm hoping that we can get his call to play back to her, as a pick her up and to let each know the other is still waiting…..come spring time…all being well he can go back fit and well for the breeding period.
    I have to admit, the psychology and language is interesting. I've taken to muttering to the rooks at work (also have white in) and the magpies.
    The rooks and the magpies at work stick together, but just half a mile away the rooks reject the magpies in favour of the flock or jackdaws. The few times I've seen the Jay, it's been with the magpies both at work and near home.

  26. Is it possible that a Raven lives in a family of Crows? I know the Raven's call and the crow's sounds……and there is one raven who lives with a family of crows… i watch this family everyday!!

  27. I studied a flock of crows and found the cawing is used by this flock for their sentry crows, to tell other crows, that the coast is clear, no danger. thats 4 caw's. 3 caw's something is seen but still far away. 2 caw's it's closer, 1 caw means take flight. I think they have 2 forms of communication. The other form they use is the multiple ticking sound used between them. This ticking form, I think, may be more complex than we think. It sort of reminds me of the use of morse code. The speed and intensity can change to give different meaning. I have also watched this flock of over 500 birds morn the death of what most likely was their Alfa Male or Female. They were all very silent and mostly facing the direction of the dead crow. I have seen many crows wait till others are not nearby, and then hide a piece of food, then come back the next day to eat it. I've seen them play with colorful or shiny objects. and twice crows have left such object by me after I gave them scraps of food. I have no doubt, that if they had more leisure time, and not have the struggle of every day surviving, they would evolve a very sophisticated society. What I don't know, is how much change their might be, between flocks, in their language.

  28. I have a question, which i have been unable to find an answer for online. When do American Crows typically mate and is their mating call anything similar to the classic Cawh cawh cawh? I have a Congress in my neighborhood these days (going on 3-4 weeks) and I don’t understand where they have all suddenly come from or why. I’m in the Four Corners of NM. I opened my back door this morning and there were easily 20-25 perched on my fence, immediately were startled, but then it was like a horror movie where more moved with that group and stooped down and flew from my rooftop and neighboring houses and they all just went from one rooftop to the next. They have been obsessively calling starting at 7am. Is this typical American Crow behavior or is it on omen (lol)? Thanks!

  29. My ABSOLUTE FAVORITES of all birds. ❤
    I find crows and ravens so very interesting, fascinating, and beautiful. I absolutely LOVE them and find such pleasure & joy in my interactions with them. Love their distinctive vocalizations. Also, a big fan of Dr. Kevin's work. Thanks for posting !!

  30. I am so excited to find out I have a lovely pair of ravens visiting my yard multiple times a day. At first I thought we had just crows hanging around, but then i learned differently when one day I came out to hear all the birds in the neighborhood in quite an uproar. I stepped forward to investigate and spied a very large hawk surveying my yard far high up in a tree. Right there next to him (on the branch!)- were two very large black birds, and they were giving it a mighty bit of misery. They very were up close and personal! When the hawk had had enough, they accompanied it away – they ESCORTED it out of the neighborhood, one on each side. It was then I knew that they were indeed ravens, because crows usually will not escort a hawk off – they harass and dive bomb it. Just then, I saw the crows getting in on the act – and noticed the great difference in size and behavior between the ravens and the crows as well as HEAR the difference between a "cronk" and a "caw"!
    I learned that the ravens visit because they love the branches of a particular tree – working twigs from it and carrying them away to build a nest somewhere nearby. I know its nearby, they come right back within 5 minutes or so for more (unless they are eating the buds?). It is early spring, and the twigs and buds are very tender. They will sit high up in this tree and watch me carefully – they now know I share food with the other birds, and I think they are working out how to safely get in on the action! They "talk' back and forth with each other, and now – with me! They call, I answer in imitation, and then i call and THEY answer in tone and length. I watched as the male gently approached the female and offered her some food. It was a gift for ME to see this – as much as it was for the female to receive it! I can't wait till I see them fly 'in unison' or better yet – do that "upsidedown" flight feat! I was hoping they would build a nest here – they still may (but my yard is far too busy for the privacy and safety they like) but at least I get to see them every day. I live in a fairly populated suburb, but there is plenty of wooded area nearby. For many years, ravens were not spotted in New Jersey- but lately they are making a healthy come-back!

    By the way, my son graduated from Cornell -what a wonderful school. He has a degree in the philosophy of mechanical engineering – and went on for his doctorate at the University of Wisonsin. What I love about Cornell is their Ornithology department. What a great place to learn everything about our feathered friends!

  31. For years ive noticed a bird song that kind of sounds like someone saying the word "gulp" with a bit of a chortle. Just now i noticed it was coming from a crow in my yard. Its quite different from the normal "caw" or "rattle" calls. Any ideas what it means? Im wondering if its a juvenile finding its voice.

  32. There is a crow that visits me everyday for a nice lunch …but he has a song I never heard a crow sing before …rowho rowho rowho ..very beautiful sound …ike he is really singing …any idea what it means ?

  33. We have a family of crows staying in our woods. On Easter, we saw one of them flying back to the nest with a corn muffin in its mouth!! Since then, we feed them our stale bread when we can. They’re so neat to watch and listen to. I’m glad they feel comfortable living so close to us.

  34. The crows near me say "AH'-ah" (quiet to mid-volume) in the morning or when close to yards/houses.

    Anybody else?

    I think it's their Foraging call b/c it's when they're low to the ground & typically in the morning or evenings. They seem to be calm .

  35. as i deed pay antention to the sounds i found 4 different sounds in my area , literally one of them was.. like a singing.. and i actually laughed even the crow with hoarse voice sounded so funny and relaxing.

  36. So far every bird "expert" I've come across claims "calls" are for some specific reason. I just assume these folks are just trying to reassure themselves that they are smart and know everything about wild creatures. I've sat with a few crow before for hours, with no other birds in sight with nothing new changing, they will shuffle in-between all their calls just because. They will also do things that the experts will say they do for a reason, for no reason at all.

  37. In my years of studying and working closely with crows keeping crows close by but free to fly. I have found that the cawcaw call is something they do when telling family members to follow them or also like saying, hey where are you? I am over here!.. a rapid cawcawcawcaw is a disresa call that there is imminent danger OR its when an intruder, perhaps another crow from a different brood infiltrates their territory. ..

  38. I was sunbathing and heard a gutteral scream from a crow it flew overheard and followed by a hawk five more crows joined, Two questions my neighbor adjacent to me had the same thing happen above her house, Are the crows protecting us and driving the hawk off because after this happened the crows gathered near a tree by me kitty corner 50 ft or so and just laid in wait

  39. I have two crows that I feed all the time. I named them "caw" and "caw caw". In the morning I'll go out on the deck and they call out "caw caw caw". When I put food out I call out "caw caw", and they reply and then come for the food.

    Lately they'll come sit on the railing of the deck and make the rattle sound – I call it the velociraptor sound.

  40. Recently I was sitting under a tree where two crows were having a conversation above me. Then, one of them changed it's tone and said "no no no." It caught me totally by surprise and I had to laugh.

  41. I have a fsmily of ravens on my property, and they just a delight! They play in the sprinkler and mimic when I say "good morning." I just can't help but smile.

  42. A few years back, I befriended a pair of crows in my neighborhood who would stop by on the power line right outside our house looking for food. After a while, they'd start to greet me with rattles, so i'd like to think it's a friendly noise!

  43. We have a lot of crows on our property. There a sound that sounds like a duck clucking. I never see it but hear if often it seems to be with the crows. What could it be?

  44. Ah it's the chuckling sound I heard today while standing on my balcony!
    I live on the 15th/top floor and there's a large pigeon colony on the roof which attracts a red tailed hawk couple once or twice a month.
    But this year the crows have come too. Not being able to see them properly, I didn't know they were actually ravens!
    I live in Toronto Ontario, which has a LOT of different birds despite being a large city. We have extensive tracts of maintained but unmanicured parkland where I've seen the return of certain wildlife such as red squirrels (which I had never seen before a few years ago).
    The explanations and differentiation between calls was very interesting and useful.
    Thank you.

  45. I'm just trying to find out out more on the calls and what they mean on crows and ravens this video is big help. These birds seem to follow me no matter where I go they're also in my view. I can walk into a McDonald's and sit inside eat my food (normally by a window) and I look out the window and outside the window I'll see a crow or raven just siting there outside my window not even try to hide just fully in view but what's weirder when I leave they leave they even too, but they'll appear again when I'm at my next destination. They also appear outside my house everyday without fail just sitting there outside until it gets bored and leaves but as soon it leaves another then take it's spot and watches me and the cycle continues until leave the house. It's not like I've feed them or anything like that for them to keep following me either it's just weird.

  46. That’s a great video! I feed ravens or crows on my front porch daily and I play your videos as I sit here watching them they are watching me, I wonder if they understand what is being said on your video. I have 6 of them on a maple tree 20 feet away all gathered for the show, one bigger one is bolder to come and get the bread I call him Jim (Jim Crow) and the other big one I call Russell (Russell Crow) lol. They are fascinating to watch.

  47. A crow's rattle by itself can be very soothing. Like the crow is saying, "Relax. All is well." It's one of my favorite sounds. I keep a container of water out for neighborhood crows every summer and fall day. They remind me when it runs out.

  48. I get a lot of crows along the fence that runs about 10 feet between my apartment and a park, a lot of different birds actually, robins, jays, songbirds and a lot of squirrels, they drive my cat nuts, she runs from room to room stalking them from the windows chattering like crazy. One crow in particular likes to taunt her, it brings little animals like mice and even a rabbit (got that one on video) and tears them up right in front of her and eats them.
    I just bought a fake crow and put it on the window ledge, the real crows have been cawwing at it while my cat chatters and mews at them, it's hilarious.

  49. Kevin – do you possibly have a recording of a female crow whining that you can send me?
    I have intracted with crows my entire life since about 15 and turkey hunted every spring for almost 50 years, so I am sure I have heard this sound many tiimes but didn't recognize. Thanks

  50. Ok so there is this Raven (i think) in my neighborhood. It recently came (like 3-4 weeks ago). I live in an apartment complex and it goes from window to window to ask for food. It makes this weird sound, something i never heard of before. My mom and sister said the same thing. I usually give it a piece of bread and it leaves after. It usually comes between mid day and evening and in the morning around 6 near people’s windows. If i can record and send it to you, can you figure out what it’s saying?

  51. All the sudden we've been getting crows every week for the last month we don't know why they're coming here in our backyard we live Pleasant place by a lake never had a problem before how can we get rid of them by using sound

  52. A crow hung out in my backyard for over 10 yrs. He would sit on the back wooden shed and watch me. I would run to the back of the yard to chase the squirrels out of the bird feeder (they had their own feeder with corn) and he watched. One day he decided to take the job on his own and chase and screech at the squirrel then look at me for approval. He did this every day. I have a great picture of him leaning over the shed to the feeder and telling the squirrel to leave. lol He was my friend . He also would fly to the windsheild of my truck when I came home to greet me. One day he followed my truck to the grocery store. He was fun to have around.

  53. The title caw versus croak. It made me think that you were going to attribute the call to the crow and the croak to the raven. But you didn’t use the term croak in your video only “a grunk sort of call”. So would you say a ravens call is referred to as a croak?


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