Crow Intelligence: A Look Into A Crow’s Clever, Amazing Behavior

December 29, 2021 // 11 minute read

Articles » Crow's Intelligence

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What’s the very first thing that comes to your mind when you see crows? Probably not crow intelligence! For most people, they might immediately think of them as a sign of a bad phenomenon coming. After all, that’s how movies, stories, and superstitions have been believed for several years. 

However, these birds are very fascinating, and there’s no reason to be scared of these birds. 

Crows are very intelligent animals. They are second to humans when it comes to intelligence and even surpass the abilities of primates. They have shown this intelligence many times, and if you just observe the crows around you closely, bird-watching enthusiasts might even see these behaviors first-hand. 

In this article, we’re going to talk about the crows’ intelligence. We’ll discuss: 

  • What crows are 
  • What makes crows so intelligent
  • The clever behavior they show
  • Interesting facts about crows
  • Most intelligent crows species
  • FAQs

So, if you’re interested to know more about these birds, read on… 

About Crows

Crows belong to the family of corvids, along with ravens, jackdaws, and rooks. At first glance, crows look like ravens. They feature the same black feathers all over their body, but they’re smaller and have thinner beaks. 

These birds are found in most parts of the world. They are known as omnivores that eat almost anything, nuts, berries, insects, eggs of other birds, or even weak animals. This somehow makes them the number one enemy of farmers, as they also often raid crops. 

Crows are highly social birds that live in large, close, knit families. Unlike most bird species, crows don’t only hunt and forage together. Instead, they also help take care of the young. 

Most crows don’t leave their families for up to 4 years, helping out their parents in every breeding season. It’s almost like how humans raise their children, which led most researchers to assume that long childhood is responsible for their high intelligence. 

Why Are Crows Very Intelligent

So, what makes crows highly intelligent? 

Researchers have already concluded that most birds are indeed smart despite their small-sized brains. But what made the crow really smart? 

Well, it’s said that crows tend to have larger brains compared to their body size. And if we’re going to get scientific, the nidopallium caudolateral is the one part of the crow’s brain that’s responsible for its intelligence. 

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, neurons in the nidopallium caudolateral seem to change every time the crows are presented with a task. 

Now, to get a context, this part of the crow’s brain is equivalent to the prefrontal cortex of humans. It’s the part responsible for social behavior and problem-solving, leading to conclusions that this part of the crow’s brain thinks every time a crow is faced with a problem. 

Another factor that affects these birds’ intelligence is that their brain is highly packed with neurons. 

According to studies, crows have around 1.5 billion neurons in their brains, almost the same in monkeys. However, what makes crows even smarter is that these neurons are tightly packed in the brain, allowing faster and easier communication between neurons.

Crow Intelligence & Clever Behavior

Now that we know how clever crows are, let’s look at the many moments they have displayed clever and amazing behaviors. 

They Hold Funerals

crow funeral
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It turns out that humans aren’t the only species that hold funerals for the dead. Crows do, too. 

When a crow dies, a whole murder of crows gathers around the dead body while creating loud noises. However, unlike humans, these birds aren’t necessarily grieving for the death of a family member. 

According to Kaeli Swift, a researcher, crows do this to study the danger in that area. They find reasoning about how the crow died and find a way to stay away from that possible danger and survive. 

You can even say that one crow’s death is a sacrifice for others to live.  

They Have Regional Dialects

Yep. If humans have various languages, accents, and dialects, crows do, too!

Aside from the well-known “caw-caw-caw”, crows also emit other sounds, with each sound sending a different message to fellow crows. Cawing may seem to be more of a territorial warning so that no birds would invade their space. But when it comes to mating calls and other communication, crows use different sounds. 

Of course, this is not the only way crow sounds vary. 

Researchers observed that crows from one region have a different sound than crows from another area. This difference is so slight that it’s not entirely noticeable to humans. 

It’s even said that when a crow moves to another group, it tries to mimic how the dominant flock member sounds to fit in with the new group. 

They Make Tools

We all know how crows love taking bright and shiny objects to use as tools. However, they don’t just take tools and use them; they can also make them. 

If they’re flying around an area and they don’t find anything, they’ll take some twigs, snap it off, and strip it of bark and even leaves. They can also make a hook at the end, which they’ll use to grab food from smaller spaces they can’t reach. 

What’s even more impressive is if they accidentally let go of their tool, they’ll pick it up again. It seems that they value the effort they put into making the tool. 

They Remember Faces

Crows remember faces. And if you do any mean things to them, do know that they hold a grudge. 

They watch pretty closely and observe human behavior. They can even make direct eye contact to know if you have good intentions or not. 

They remember kindness and even bring gifts to people who are kind to them. And for those who are mean, don’t be surprised if one day, a crow just swoops in to attack because of something you did to them days, weeks, months, or even years before. 

They Talk About You to Other Crows

crow talking
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If ever you’re walking around your area and you see two crows talking to each other, they are probably talking about you. 

Aside from this, they can even pass grudges to each other. So, when you’re mean to a crow, you have to be careful because his peers might also attack you. 

How these birds can describe a specific person to others is still unknown. However, we can’t deny that this is an impressive trait. 

They Adapt Easily

Crows are highly observant birds. They watch our actions closely, learning how they can survive in a continuously changing world. 

They know how to use cars to their advantage by throwing seeds on the road so that vehicles would crush them. They also know how to use traffic lights, so they don’t get hit by oncoming traffic. 

They Plan For The Future

Crows are excellent planners. Before going out to get food, they plan how much they’ll get and where they’ll get it, how much they eat and where they’ll eat it, and how much they’ll store and where they’ll store it. 

But what’s even more impressive is that they can change their plans swiftly. 

For example, if they’re about to store seeds and see another bird watching, they’ll pretend to store the seeds, but they’re actually hiding those in their feathers. Then they’ll fly off to find another spot. 

Interesting Facts About Crows

  • Crows are smarter than 7-year-olds. 
  • Crows mate for life. 
  • Young crows stay home for up to 4 years to help care for younger crows or serve as helpers. 
  • Crow brains may be bigger than yours, proportionally speaking. 
  • They fight off predators by ganging up on them. 
  • They know how to control themselves, knowing that they’ll get a better reward later. 
  • Crows are playful birds. 

Most Intelligent Crow Species

American Crows

Belonging to a group of brilliant birds, it’s amazing how researchers find American Crows to be the smartest. 

When you say crow, most people often refer to this species. They have black feathers all over their body and are found all over the US. 

Almost all traits mentioned above are found in these birds. They are highly family-oriented, highly curious, and great observers. But even if they are the smartest of the group, we can’t deny that other birds of this species are smart, too. 

Carrion Crows

Carrion Crows are found mostly in Asia and Europe and are probably one of the most adaptable crows. 

These birds in Japan have discovered how to throw seeds on the road so that wheels from cars could crush the shells. This way, they won’t have a hard time crushing even the hardest shells and would just pick up the meat. 

To also ensure that they stay safe, they follow traffic lights.  

Hooded Crows

Hooded Crows may not be the prettiest crows you’ll see, but they are extremely smart, too. 

Unlike the all-black color that most crows have, this bird has a light grey-colored back and chest. They are primarily found in Europe, Asia, and Mediterranean Africa. 

Birds that live on the European coasts learned to develop a strategy to feed on animals easily. They would pick up mollusks and fly at a certain height to ensure that the shell would break when it hits the ground. Once it does, they’ll swoop down to pick up the meat. 

The birds also don’t pick up just any type of mollusk. They’ll focus on the larger ones as those are where they’ll get the most nutrition. 

Other than that, they also find ways to quickly capture fish by baiting them with bread, picnic leftovers, and other food. 

New Caledonian Crows

New Caledonian Crows are one of the most researched crows. They are highly intelligent and are dubbed to be smarter than a toddler. 

In one study, it’s been found that these birds understand the concept of water displacement. 

In that study, scientists have placed floating food on the water. These birds somehow figured out that if they kept on putting heavy objects on the water, the water would rise, and soon, the food would be within their reach. 

FAQs

How clever is the crow? 

Crows are definitely one of the most intelligent living species. They are capable of analytical thinking just like humans and have shown their problem-solving skills in many ways. 

Why are crows so smart? 

Despite the tiny brain size, crows have large brains in proportion to their body. On top of that, it’s found that they have 1.5 billion neurons in their brain, mostly compact in one area. 

Because of the higher density of neurons, communication between neurons is faster and easier, allowing for quick thinking and problem-solving skills. 

What is the smartest crow? 

American crows are known to be the smartest among all crow species. 

Do crows remember kindness? 

Crows don’t just remember mean people and hold grudges. These birds also recognize people who have been kind to them. 

In one news a few years back, a crow kept on bringing gifts to a little girl that kept on feeding it. This is the best way they repair kindness to kind people. 

Crow Intelligence – Final Thoguhts

Crows are highly intelligent birds. And there’s enough evidence for this from their clever and amazing behavior that no one can deny it anymore. 

Most people hate these birds, saying that they cause destruction. But we have to know that these birds are doing what they can to survive. 

Although a group of crows has been known as “murder”, most scientists would prefer not to call these amazing birds that name. These birds don’t cause any negative phenomenon. They are surviving, just like the rest of us. 

And thanks to their high intelligence, they continue to adapt to this changing world. 

Crow Intelligence
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