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Are Crows Smarter Than Humans? Crow Brain Facts Explained

A black background showing the head and neck of a crow with its beak pointed down.

People have been marveling at the intelligence of crows for a long time. They are so smart that some people may find them to be a bit creepy! But the question is…“Are crows smarter than humans?”

The crow is a good example of an intelligent animal since it can:

  • draw comparisons
  • master self-control
  • create tools
  • considered as smart as a 7-year-old human

However, the crow is not smarter than a human.

Learn from this article how research supports that crows are intelligent creatures beyond comparison. 

Are Crows as Smart as Humans?

Crows are as smart as humans in some ways. More and more evidence suggests that birds don’t have a structure in their brains similar to the prefrontal cortex of mammals. 

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Recent studies, however, have shown that birds’ brains make efficient use of the available space by putting in an extremely high density of neurons—even more so than in mammals.  

And among birds, crows are among the most intelligent. Here’s the reason why:

Crows Can Understand Analogies 

A study says that crows can do higher-order relational matching tasks like humans and other primates. During all three testing phases, the crows were good at making the right choice in both identity and relational trials.

Researchers looked at each crow’s behavior independently using a logistic regression that looked at:

  • trial type
  • stimulus size
  • session

These regression analyses showed no significant changes in choice accuracy over the eight sessions.

So, the results show for the first time that a nonprimate animal can use analogies to make decisions. Therefore, crows add to the growing body of evidence that refutes the claims of influential philosophers like René Descartes and John Locke that only humans can think in abstract ways

Relational reasoning, like analogical thinking, can no longer be seen as the highest level of human intelligence, especially understanding the relationship between relationships.

Crows did so well in this study, and it may not have been a random occurrence. Their highly developed brains make them stand out among birds.

Crows Can Manage Delay Gratification

German experts say crows and ravens can manage their appetite if they find better food.

Friederike Hillemann, a Ph.D. student at Gttingen University, tested corvids’ capacity to delay gratification. They watched what the birds ate and noted the birds’ favorite meals. The birds were served:

  • fried pork
  • beans
  • cheese
  • bread

The team attempted accumulation and trading. Researchers introduced fresh items to the birds’ food stack during the accumulation phase. In “exchange,” they gave the bird other food in return for something more appealing.

Before being assessed, the birds learned trading and accumulation. Those who couldn’t manage their emotions throughout the exam’s second portion did not continue. One subject resisted for 10 minutes

This finding supports past studies showing that animals may delay gratification. Goffin cockatoos, for example, offer some impulsive self-control.

According to the study, the birds’ ability to manage their behavior didn’t improve with experience, and practice didn’t help. They might delay their prize regardless of age. A one-year-old crow was more effective than a 17-year-old raven. Sexuality affected their efficacy, as well.

Hillemann says the study confirms animals’ cognitive capacities. Due to their intellect and social complexity, she studied corvids. Unlike pigeons, ravens and crows are cooperative.

A crow standing outside with fall colored leaves blurred in the background.
Crows are among the most intelligent birds

Crows Have Self-Control

Crows passed a self-control exam to establish their intelligence. After receiving treats, the crows were told to wait for more. It is the first study to involve crows and children in New Zealand’s New Caledonian region.

Rachel Miller of Cambridge University supervised the rotating tray investigation. A window in a transparent container discharged the tray’s contents. After spinning the tray, the second sweet was presented. The better reward may be higher quality, like meat.

Researchers taught 9 wild crows and 61 three-to-five-year-olds how to use the machine. When they tested the animals, they used two different kinds of setups. In one, the reward was hidden behind a cover; in the other, it was out in the open.

Once the better food was out in the open, the crows and the kids were more willing to wait. They were also more patient while waiting for a better meal than waiting for the same reward.

Crows Have Remarkable Toolmaking Skills

The crows of New Caledonia are renowned for their remarkable toolmaking. Decades of research haven’t shed much light on how these birds use their tool in the environment

Thus, the solution to this problem is a specially designed video camera that can record close-up the foraging behavior of these animals. In addition, researchers surveyed 19 free-living crows to determine their daily energy expenditures and the total amount of recorded footage.

Although just four crows were seen using tools during the field recordings, tool usage was widespread among the species

About one-fifth of all bird sightings may be attributed to tool use, which rises to 19% when including all foraging activity. A hooked stick was one of the most often seen items utilized by these birds in the first footage from the video loggers.

Paperbark and a tree species named acacia spirorbis were two of the live tree branches examined as part of research on the development and use of tools in the natural world

NOTE: Researchers learned more about how ravens use hooked stick tools from the filmed footage. Additionally, they gained insight into the transition process between tool- and bill-assisted foraging.

A crow picking up a small stick with its beak to use as a tool.
Crows have the ability to use natural tools

Crows Can Recognize Humans

A crow can distinguish human faces due to its ability to perceive individual features. Thus, “Are crows smarter than humans?” In this respect, it may be smarter than us

In 2006, ecologist David Marzluff of the University of Washington was trying to capture crows as part of a study about how the population of these birds was affecting other birds. After learning that the birds couldn’t be tricked twice, his team returned to capture them.

For three experiments, which involved working with several flocks of crows in and around Seattle, researchers determined how much the crows pay attention to human faces

They first tested the birds’ reactions by wearing various masks, including one that featured a caricature of former Vice President Dick Cheney and another called the caveman. A few weeks later, a trapper using a net launcher captured and marked seven to 15 of the crows.

The researchers would return to the same locations for the next three years and try to capture the crows again. They would often encounter large groups of people.

Are crows smarter than humans? The studies revealed that the crows were very sensitive to human faces.

Although they initially didn’t notice the person wearing the caveman mask, they would start agitating the trapper after seeing it. In the end, about two-thirds of the birds became upset after seeing the mask and started agitating the wearer.

Regardless of the mask’s design, the birds could still focus on the faces of the people they encountered. They ignored the researchers, who were wearing neutral masks, and they did not pay attention to:

  • age
  • gender
  • ethnicity
  • walking gait differences

Are Crows As Smart As A 7-Year-Old Human?

Are crows smarter than humans? Let’s find out here in this study.

According to a July 2014 report published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, this level of intelligence is comparable to that of a human seven-year-old kid.

The findings reveal that animals other than humans can complete some tests the first time trying. These data don’t support the assumption that crows can find a hidden cause-and-effect mechanism

NOTE: The researchers challenge previous object discrimination and make it simpler to compare humans and animals, helping scientists determine what aspects of causal reasoning are unique to humans.

What Is The Intelligence Of A Crow?

Crows possess higher intelligence levels. Another scientific study says that crows can now add another feather to their claims of being smart. 

The research shows that these birds are smart and can figure out what is happening in their heads. It indicates that humans and other higher mammals are not the only ones with this intelligence.

It is fact that the cerebral cortex is linked to how we feel about things. It’s unclear if sensory consciousness can come from a different part of the brain that doesn’t have layers, like the brain of a bird

In this study, researchers show that the way the endbrain of crows responds to visual stimuli is related to how they think a stimulus is there or not

Do Crows Understand What They Say?

Crows can imitate the sounds and language of people after receiving sufficient training and exposure to human speech. Even if they may not comprehend what it is that they are saying, they are nonetheless able to carry it out.

Scientists have known for a long time that crows are very smart, but they still don’t know how to explain how they act.

A crow on a stump with its wings starting to spread and its beak open, with green trees in the background.
Crows can imitate the sounds people make

NOTE: Kaeli Swift, a biologist, says that we can analyze the vocalization that other animals make, like vervet monkeys and chicks. However, they still don’t know how crows communicate with each other.


Studies on the cognitive abilities of crows have increased in the previous few decades. We now know that crows can figure out how to finish a complex chain of events to solve a problem. They can:

  • master self-control
  • mimic languages
  • recognize human faces

“Are crows smarter than humans?” depends on how you perceive intelligence. Researchers discovered that crows have the intelligence of a seven-year-old human in several areas, and are undoubtedly observing us to get insight into human culture.

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