Bird Basics: Crows & Ravens in Agriculture

Sep 12, 2023

Crow resting on a bay of hale

American crows and common ravens are often mistaken for one another. Both are members of the crow (or Corvidae) family, and have large, solid black bodies with sharp, slightly curved beaks.

But, while the birds have a strikingly similar appearance and share a lineage, they are distinct species – and they damage crops and livestock in different ways.

How to Tell the Difference Between Crows & Ravens

To the untrained eye, American crows and common ravens may appear to be indistinguishable. Look closer though, and some telltale distinctions emerge.

Most obviously, ravens are much larger than crows. Based on size alone, there is no question of which bird was which species when placed side by side.

The size and shape of the birds’ tails and beaks also differ. Ravens have wedge-shaped tails, while crows have rounded square tails. Raven’s bills are proportionately larger than crows – ravens are sometimes described as a “beak with a bird” and crows as a “bird with a beak.”

And, while both birds are fantastic mimics (and can even learn human speech!), raven calls tend to be higher pitched and more melodious than a crow’s harsh caw.

American Crow

American Crow

Common Raven

Common Raven

The Agricultural Damage Crows & Ravens Cause

Crows and ravens are considered to be among the most intelligent animals in the world. Both species are capable of solving complex problems quickly, can understand materials and tools, and can even recognize human faces. Their intelligence allows them to adapt readily to human environments.

Both birds are opportunistic and omnivorous. They are often on the lookout for an easy meal and are able to consume almost any food source. During migration seasons and spring nesting, large flocks of both species may eat and damage crops and livestock – though the target of their feasting often differs.

Crows favor crops and can often be found eating seedlings and newly planted seeds, fruits, and corn. Ravens, however, have been known to consume newly born, or recently hatched livestock and poultry –  though some of what they consume may be carrion.

However, despite the fact that the first crop protections in history were called “scareCROWS,” crows and ravens do not typically inflict as much damage to crops and livestock as other bird species. In fact, their presence on farms can be beneficial, as they help control populations of insects and rodents.

How to “Scare” Crows & Ravens off Your Farm

Autonomic lasers protect orchards and agricultural fields from pest birds, including crows and ravens.

Both American crows and common ravens are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, though there are some provisions for crow management. Ravens have full protection under the Act because they generally do not cause extensive damage.

But even though both species are protected, there are effective, humane, and legal ways to evict them from your farm. Luckily, methods have evolved beyond scarecrows – which highly intelligent crows and ravens can quickly learn to evade.

One method that stumps even the most intelligent birds – and effectively deters them from farms – are automatic laser systems like the AVIX Autonomic Laser.

Automatic lasers sweep fields in random patterns, continuously. Though the beams cause no physical harm, birds perceive them to be threats. And, because the patterns are random, birds cannot habituate to and learn to avoid the beams. When implemented properly, automatic lasers can reduce crop loss by up to 70%.

Your Partner in Bird Control

With over 25 years of experience controlling nuisance birds in agricultural settings and beyond, the Wild Goose Chase team can help you outsmart even the smartest birds.

If you struggle to control crows and ravens on your farm, contact us to schedule a site evaluation, so we can devise a custom solution to suit your unique needs.

Contact us to learn about bird control solutions