How Smart Are Crows? Five Examples That Demonstrate Their Intelligence

6 mins read

Many of us are already familiar with crows. We see them in the wilderness, around the neighborhood, and even in some horror movies.

The question is…

How smart are crows? It turns out that their intelligence is comparable to a seven-year-old human child.

When attracting these clever birds, you might notice some interesting behaviors that you can’t see in other backyard birds. Well, we’re here to talk about five behaviors that show how smart they can be.

1. Crows Are Opportunistic Feeders

Crows are adaptable in both habitat and diet. They can thrive in the wild and in human settlements, and they will eat almost anything. Apart from visiting your bird feeder, you may even see them scavenging around your trash bins.

Additionally, their diverse diet and opportunistic behavior allow them to adjust their feeding habits.

Crows mostly eat seeds , fruits, insects, and reptiles, which are more reliable and convenient. Whenever they see these food items, all they need is to fly toward them.

Compare that to hunting small mammals and birds. They have to chase these animals around, and they could risk encountering other predatory birds, such as hawks or eagles . However, crows will not hesitate to eat these animals given the right opportunity and timing.

Crows will also cache food for the future, memorize restaurant schedules, and even drop walnuts on roads to let cars break them open. They can even learn traffic patterns to retrieve the nuts once the lights are red.

2. Crows Can Hold “Funerals”

Whenever a crow dies, it tends to attract a mob of neighboring crows. Crows are one of the animals that respond to a dead member of their species. Other animals that exhibit this behavior are chimpanzees, elephants, wolves, and a few others.

Studies suggest that crow “funerals” are for survival, not mourning. 

They hold a mass gathering to learn how the crow died so they can avoid the same threat in the future. Some crows can also be hesitant to visit places where a crow died, even if they offer many food sources.

3. Crows Can Use Tools

Crows can use tools and even make their own. For example, they can use sticks to probe under bark and create hooks by bending wires, which they will use to grab food baskets. Additionally, crows will teach each other how to make these tools.

A scientific experiment even demonstrated that crows understand the concept of water displacement, rivaling the level of a 5 to 7-year-old child.

In this experiment, the subjects had to raise the water level in a tube to obtain an out-of-reach reward. The crows were able to recognize the water-filled tube and selected solid, dense objects to drop into the water.

4. Crows Can Recognize Human Beings

Though it’s challenging to tell crows apart, crows can tell humans apart. They will remember your face and what you did to them. For example, a crow you mistreated will most likely attack you the next time you meet.

Additionally, that crow will pass its grudge to its friends and offspring.

For example, researchers from the University of Washington conducted an experiment where they captured and branded seven crows while wearing rubber masks. Every time they wore the masks on campus, the crows would scold them.

However, it wasn’t only those seven crows – other crows around the campus also joined the scolding. The researchers hypothesized that crows learn about dangerous humans from their parents and other members of their flock.

5. Crows Can Give Gifts

Apart from holding grudges, crows also remember good deeds. There have been multiple instances where people received gifts after consistently feeding crows. These gifts may include colorful rocks, bones, trinkets, and other small objects.

However, the motive behind this behavior isn’t clear since we can’t talk to crows. 

There’s no way to know whether gift-giving is an expression of gratitude or crows simply learned that they’ll receive food whenever they leave objects behind.

Final Remarks

Whenever we think of intelligent animals, great apes like chimpanzees and orangutans immediately come to mind.

However, crows prove that they’re also cognitively capable through their memory and survival abilities. They clearly demonstrate that the idiom “bird-brained” doesn’t make sense.

The next time you encounter a crow, don’t try anything funny. You might wake up with a murder of crows seeking revenge on you.

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