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5 Smartest Birds In The World (With Pictures)

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Parrot riding on a scooter

Birds are often ranked some of the most intelligent animals in the world. In fact, many birds actually rank equally with apes in terms of intelligence! This makes humans the only animals that are smarter than certain bird species.

Although it is difficult to say for certain which birds are smartest, there are a few species that perform remarkably well in intelligence tests. Crows, Ravens, and certain Parrots, for example, are almost always ranked as being the most intelligent birds.

Keep reading to learn about the 5 smartest birds in the world, as well as how avian intelligence is defined.

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Defining Avian Intelligence

Defining the intelligence of a creature is actually very difficult. There are different types of intelligence and different studies that measure the various types of intelligence accordingly. As a result, it’s next to impossible to outright say how intelligent a species is.

When defining intelligence in other birds, scientists most often look at the following abilities:

  • Associative learning
  • Spatial abilities
  • Self-awareness
  • Tool use/problem solving
  • Observational learning
  • Social behavior
  • Communication
  • Conceptional abilities

By looking at all of these features, a more holistic picture of the species’ intelligence can be determined. At the same time, it also makes it difficult to rank which bird is the most intelligent. For example, some species are better at problem-solving and associative learning, whereas others have more extensive communication and social behaviors.

In this article, we are looking at all of these factors together to determine the most holistically intelligent birds.hummingbird divider

The 5 Smartest Birds In The World

Believe it or not—birds are incredibly intelligent. This largely has to do with the fact that birds and humans have some shared ancestors. This is reflected in the fact that birds are both warm-blooded and have large brains proportionate to their size.

Because of how intelligent birds are, it’s actually difficult to rank them in terms of intelligence. Even so, here’s a look at the five bird species that are most frequently thought of as being the most intelligent.

1. Crows

american crow perched on a log
Image Credit: JackBulmer, Pixabay

Crows are almost always considered one of the most intelligent birds—if not the most intelligent. In fact, many Crows actually rank higher in terms of intelligence than apes. The only species that is always more intelligent than the Crow is the human. In other words, Crows may just be the second most intelligent animal on the planet.

The intelligence of Crows can be seen in many ways. Crows are known to be great problem solvers. They can even use tools and gauge other individual states of mind before making a decision. Some studies have even found that Crows have the ability to count to six!

The Crow’s use of tools is especially interesting. Crows will drop nuts on roads so that cars run over them, allowing the Crow to get the nut inside. In other areas, Crows use breadcrumbs to fish or drag fishing lines out of water in order to get a fish.

One way that Crows stand out from other birds is that they are remarkably good at remembering faces. Some birds will remember the faces of their owners, but they won’t remember the face of all humans they pass. Crows are known to remember many humans and remember them for a long time.

There are many different types of Crows. Some of the most intelligent include Hooded Crows and Carrion Crows, although there are about 32 species in total.

2. Ravens

raven on cliff edge
Image Credit: Piqsels

Ravens are another incredibly intelligent bird species. They are closely related to the Crow, which explains their intelligence levels. Ravens belong to the same genus as Crows, Corvus, and the genus as a whole is known for being one of the most intelligent genera of birds.

Ravens are known for being great problem solvers, but they are most known for their cooperative abilities. Ravens often work together in order to distract prey and go in on the hunt. This extensive teamwork requires a lot of intelligence that many animals cannot demonstrate.

Much like Crows, Ravens are known for being playful. They often solve complicated problems because of their playful behavior. You can think of their playfulness almost as a type of creativity. It allows them to communicate and try new ways to solve their problems.

Some studies even suggest that Ravens are about as good as planning as a 4-year-old child. This ability to plan proves that the Raven is incredibly intelligent and able to problem-solve even the most complicated of problems.

The one way where Ravens are not as intelligent as Crows is in their memory. Although Ravens do have a good memory, they are not as good at remembering faces as Crows.

3. African Grey Parrots

African Grey Parrot
Image Credit: manfredrichter, Pixabay

African Grey Parrots are scarily smart. Studies have found that these parrots are about as intelligent as a 4-year-old child. Some even suggest that this bird is almost always thinking, which allows the bird to intelligently reason.

These birds are especially good at deductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning is whenever you have a statement or premise and form a conclusion from these statements. These birds can watch their surroundings in order to deduct the location of food and other information.

Parrots are also very talkative, as you likely know, and African Grey Parrots have been known to learn up to 1000 words or more! This ability to communicate relies on memory, deduction skills, and trainability, all of which African Grey Parrots rank high in. Needless to say, many studies prove their intelligence.

4. Macaws

Image Credit: bergslay, Pixabay

The Macaw, another type of parrot, has long been thought of as being an incredibly intelligent bird with an affectionate personality and comical traits. They also are beautiful and come in many sizes and colors.

The intelligence of Macaws can be seen in how sensitive they are to their environment. Each species has its own preference for a number of family members and connects with other creatures. This sensitivity shows that Macaws are very intelligent about social interactions.

Macaws are also very intelligent in terms of their reasoning abilities. They’re typically ranked second in terms of parrot intelligence. They only come in second to the above-mentioned African Grey Parrot when compared to other parrots.

5. Keas

Image Credit: Barni1, Pixabay

The Kea is a specific type of parrot that is about as intelligent as a 4-year-old. It is known as being very troublesome because it is crafty and causes a lot of havoc for other animals and people. It uses its intelligence to get what it wants, often to the disappointment of other creatures!

For example, Keas are known for stealing food. They are very crafty when it comes to stealing and finding their food as well. They are known to mess with cars a lot in order to get food and simply entertain themselves. This bird gets its nickname “Clown of the Alps” as a result.

These curious creatures are one of the most intelligent on the planet. They outscore most other birds, and they have even been found to outscore many monkeys, specifically Gibbons. This makes Keas some of the most intelligent birds—and creatures—on the planet.

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Next time you see a bird, recognize how intelligent that creature likely is. Crows, Ravens, African Grey Parrots, Macaws, and Keas are especially intelligent, but birds as a whole are super smart too. So, don’t discount a bird because many are as intelligent as small children!

Featured Image Credit: NET_Photog, Shutterstock

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.