Last Updated on: 2nd October 2023, 09:34 pm
Parrots are considered smart animals, while dogs are better known for loyalty and affection. Are parrots smarter than dogs, or are our canine friends not given enough credit for their intellect?
Parrots and dogs show their intelligence differently. Parrots are seen as smarter because they mimic human words and phrases. However, dogs can understand up to 250 words and commands and interpret human emotions. Both animals show emotions, learn tricks, and solve puzzles.
Parrots and dogs have high levels of intelligence, some of which are markedly similar.
However, it’s difficult to determine the smarter species, as both animals failed the mirror test, which measures self-awareness. This means their neural passageways work in similar ways.
How Smart Are Parrots?
Parrots are among the smartest animals and are considered the most intelligent bird species.
- Language skills.
- Word and phrase mimicry.
- Spatial awareness.
Alongside the genome sequence, parrots have well-developed brains with human-like qualities. Their brain structures aren’t too dissimilar from ours.
According to the University of Alberta, researchers found that the region of the brain called the medial spiriform nuclei is responsible for a parrot’s intelligence.
This neural circuit connects the cerebellum and the cortex, enabling parrots to:
- Communicate with other birds.
- Talk like humans.
- Mimic words they hear.
Their neural circuit is like the one that primates and humans possess, so they have similar abilities to us. Also, their brains are asymmetrical, which is a unique feature in animals.
The left hemisphere controls language, which enables parrots to communicate with their flocks.
How Smart Are Dogs?
Experts believe the most intelligent dogs have a similar intelligence level to a 2.5-year-old child because they evolved from wolves, who quickly adapted to living around humans. Dogs can:
- Understand up to 250 words.
- Interpret human emotions and react to them.
- Perform clever tricks to earn treats.
- Understand voice commands.
As social animals, dogs are highly attentive to humans and respond to different cues, giving them excellent social and cognitive skills.
Also, dogs have episodic memories and can recall past events, including complex human actions. Larger dogs have better memories and self-control than smaller ones.
However, dogs display intelligence but don’t excel in one area.
Many animals match and exceed their intelligence, but dogs can perform well in various tests across several categories, giving them a well-rounded intellect.
What IQ Does A Dog Have?
Experts believe the average dog has an IQ of 100. The most intelligent dog species include:
- Border collies.
- German shepherds.
Many dog breeds are clever enough to join the military and police forces.
Are Parrots More Intelligent Than Dogs?
Assessing parrots’ vs. dogs’ intelligence isn’t black and white, so it isn’t easy to compare the smartness of the 2 species. Instead, we need to analyze their intelligence levels subjectively.
Both parrots and dogs are clever animals, but experimenting and observing the outcome is the best way to compare them. The mirror test is a tried-and-tested measure of intelligence.
The Animal Mirror Test
The animal mirror test measures self-awareness, which is a marker of intelligence.
It’s intended to determine whether animals can identify their reflection in the mirror or whether they believe they see another animal – the latter of which is most common, causing them to fail the test.
The test comprises the following steps:
- The dog or parrot must be sedated so they can’t see where markers are placed.
- Once the animals are asleep, researchers place markers (usually made with stickers or colorful pens) on the body.
- The markers need to appear where the animal can see it in the mirror, like the head.
- As soon as the animal wakes up and comes around, it’s placed in front of the mirror while researchers monitor the outcome.
During observations, researchers check whether the dog or parrot sees any of the markers and go to investigate. This would suggest that the animal understands that it sees a reflection of itself.
Dogs either invite the reflection to play or fail to react, while parrots react aggressively and attempt to bite the mirror, believing they’re face-to-face with another bird.
Neither dogs nor parrots have been able to pass the test so far, suggesting they have the same number of neural passageways and similar intelligence levels.
How Do Parrots Show Intelligence?
Even though parrots haven’t passed the animal mirror test, they’re intelligent creatures. They show their smartness through several behaviors, such as:
Parrots are known for mimicking words, phrases, and numbers. African grey parrots are the most advanced talkers, but even small budgies can build a large vocabulary of easy words.
The best-speaking parrots can learn the following amount of words:
- Budgies: 1,000 words.
- Amazon parrots: 300 words.
- Indian ring parakeets: 250 words.
- Cockatiels: 250 words.
- Quaker parrots: 50-60 words.
Some parrots can gain a contextual awareness of what the words mean.
For example, if an owner says “hello” to their parrot when they walk into the room, they’ll eventually learn to say the word back. They don’t necessarily know the word’s meaning but understand when to use it.
Due to their higher-functioning brains, parrots can associate human body parts with their limbs.
For example, parrots understand that an arm produces the same movement as their wing. If a human lifts an arm before a parrot, it’ll lift its wing in response.
Dancing isn’t part of their primal instincts or natural movements, but parrots dance for fun.
They can also hear and process music, enabling them to move spontaneously whenever a song gets played. When multiple parrots are in the same cage, they prompt each other to dance.
Parrots can navigate mazes and find hidden objects by remembering paths and objects.
They also remember specific things, such as certain animals or stand-out features of people, like long hair. Their good memories are another reason why parrots can recall so many words.
Learn Languages and Dialects
Wild parrots develop unique calls or dialects to communicate with other parrots. Whenever they change groups, they change their calls, enabling them to find each other.
They also learn the flock’s language, which is how they communicate. Captive parrots assign these calls to their owners, regarding them as part of their flock.
Like dogs, parrots show jealousy and can recognize the bonds they share with humans. Parrots can display feelings and emotions, such as:
While they don’t show their emotions like dogs, they do so by singing, dancing, purring, chattering, ruffing their feathers, and pinning their eyes.
Parrots can solve puzzles because they understand how they work.
They can unlock puzzle boxes, navigate games, and play games. Some parrots even break out of their cages after working out how the lock system works.
How Do Dogs Show Intelligence?
Dogs are also yet to pass the mirror test. However, as mentioned, dogs are more intelligent than many people realize. Dogs are clever enough to exhibit the following behaviors:
Read Human Cues
According to the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, researchers discovered that dogs are better at reading human social and communicative behavior than primates.
They use human communicative gestures like finger-pointing to find hidden food.
A researcher set two cups on the ground and pointed to the one hiding the treat. Unlike dogs, chimps and babies couldn’t understand this as a cue and investigated the first cup they encountered.
A study by Behavioral Processes found that dogs can remember up to 1,000 words with training.
A border collie named Chaser learned the names of 1,022 different toys and retrieved the correct toy when asked 95% of the time. On average, dogs in the top 20% of intelligence can learn about 250 words.
According to Current Biology, dogs can process the tone of their owners’ speech and the words they say.
Humans’ and parrots’ brains process language through the left hemisphere., while the right hemisphere processes emotion and tone. When sounds enter the right ear, they’re directed to the left hemisphere.
Dogs’ brain works similarly. When researchers gave commands that the dogs were familiar with, their heads turned to the right. When researchers played commands in a language they hadn’t heard before, they turned to the left.
According to PLOS One, researchers found that dogs feel jealous when their owners display affectionate behavior toward other dogs. Jealous behaviors include:
- Getting between the owner and the object.
- Pushing and touching either the object or owner.
This suggests some form of jealousy exists within dogs, particularly those bonded with their owners.
Even though it’s hard to determine whether parrots are as smart as dogs, we can safely conclude that both animals are intelligent in their own right.
Parrots are better mimickers and puzzle solvers, whereas dogs can be trained as military and police dogs. They’re also able to understand commands and words.
Although parrots can speak, they don’t know what they’re saying or have contextual awareness of words.