Although different genetically, the intelligence of parrots and crows is often compared and contrasted.
Parrots and crows can recognize and differentiate human faces and solve problems. Crows, in particular, can use ‘tools’ to overcome obstacles. Unlike parrots, crows can’t mimic human speech.
A study in PLoS One encouraged a crow and a parrot to solve the same problem. Both birds achieved their aim using different techniques based on their unique evolutionary advantages.
This suggests that parrots and crows are equally smart, but they use their intelligence differently. In some respects, comparing the IQ of these species is akin to asking if a chimpanzee or dolphin is smarter.
Are Parrots and Crows Related?
While parrots and crows are both avian species, they have little in common.
In evolutionary terms, they’re entirely different species. Parrots belong to the taxonomic order Psittaciformes, while crows belong to the Passeriformes order.
Passeriformes is the most dominant order of avian wildlife globally, referring to true perching birds with 4 toes (3 facing forward and 1 toe facing backward).
Within this order are the songbird family of Corvidae, or corvids, which includes crows.
The differences between parrots and crows include the following:
- Wild parrots live mostly in tropical and subtropical climates, while crows are abundant worldwide.
- Parrots live in large flocks, while crows mostly live alone (sometimes in pairs or small groups).
- Crows are identified due to their jet-black feathers, while parrots have bright and colorful plumage.
- Crows have long, straight beaks, while a parrot’s beak is curved (hookbills).
- Parrots imitate a wide range of sounds, including human speech. Crows communicate exclusively through caws, rattles, and clicks.
Despite these significant differences, parrots and crows have impressive intelligence levels.
How Smart Is A Parrot?
Some species of parrots, like African greys, are considered as smart as an average 3-year-old child, with comparable speech and problem-solving skills.
Every parrot is different, so some will be smarter than others based on species, life experience, human-parrot interaction, training sessions, and personality.
Parrots that start learning to speak and solve problems while young display more advanced skills.
What Makes Parrots So Intelligent?
PNAS explains how parrots have a brain the size of a walnut due to their comparatively small heads. However, the forebrain of a parrot contains as many neurons as a primate.
It’s not just science that lends parrots their reputation as clever birds. Many studies have demonstrated that parrots have advanced problem-solving skills and exceptional long-term memories.
Parrots can study and memorize behavioral patterns and bond with humans and conspecifics.
This enables parrots to communicate clearly with each other and humans.
What Is The Smartest Species of Parrot?
African greys are considered the smartest parrot due to their advanced vocabulary and problem-solving abilities. Other parrots that are celebrated for their smartness include:
- Amazon Parrots speak so clearly that some struggle to distinguish their speech from a human’s.
- Budgerigars are among the most trainable of all pet birds.
- Cockatoos forge complex social bonds.
- Ecletus parrots are playful and love to learn new games.
- Macaws can learn and perform a range of tricks to amuse people.
A parrot owner will likely believe that parrots are smarter than crows, just as a cat owner would likely insist that felines are smarter than dogs. Intelligence is difficult to measure and assess.
How Intelligent Is A Crow?
Crows are found worldwide and live exclusively in the wild. Scientists and regular people frequently admire the superior intelligence of crows.
Their intelligence revolves around problem-solving skills, especially when using ‘tools.’ Examples of crows’ intelligence include:
- As explained by Learning and Behavior, crows can locate sticks in the wild and use them to displace hiding insects when seeking food.
- Placing food items on busy roads and waiting for automobile tires to crack them open.
- Memorizing the faces of humans, as per Proceedings of the Royal Society, remembering which people are considered harmless or a threat to their welfare.
Like parrots, crows are believed to have intelligence and problem-solving cognition comparable to human children and possibly superior to an average first or second-grader.
Why Are Crows So Clever?
Crows have a larger brain relative to their size than most birds and a high number of neurons. Because crows have complex social dynamics and live in the wild, intelligence is essential to survival.
Crows spend lots of time alone but occasionally rely on each other for protection, sharing information about food, water, and environmental threats.
Perhaps the best explanation for a crow’s intelligence is the structure of their brains.
The thought processes of a crow unfold in the nidopallium caudolaterale (NCL,) which has evolved to accommodate rapid and spontaneous problem-solving skills.
Can Crows Talk Like Parrots?
Crow verbalizations vary significantly from parrots. Rather than squawks, the most common sound you’ll hear from a crow is a caw, which can have various meanings:
- A short, sharp, shrill caw warns of danger, intimidates predators, or requests help from conspecifics.
- A louder, longer caw alerts other crows that a food source has been identified.
- A series of short, level caws is a crow announcing its presence and waiting to see if others respond.
Crows seeking a mate will coo and sing softly, while juveniles and mated pairs make rattling sounds.
Crows are even believed to distinguish different languages. Crows can imitate these sounds similarly to parrots if exposed to human language.
Can Crows Talk Better Than Parrots?
Parrots are superior talkers, skilled at communicating directly with humans using an extensive range of words. There’s no comparison regarding vocabulary when pitting a crow vs. an African grey.
However, it could be argued that crows have more complex vocalizations, making various sounds with many meanings.
When we consider inter-avian conversation, crows are arguably better communicators than parrots.
Are Crows the Smartest Birds in the World?
Intelligence is subjective, so while some people declare crows the smartest birds in the world, parrot owners will likely disagree based on interactions with their pets.
Crows demonstrate impressive problem-solving skills and can adapt to most situations.
Comparative Cognition and Behavior Reviews confirm that crows can identify different ‘tools’ required for any task and use them appropriately.
Parrots will be considered smarter than crows if you value the ability to talk to a bird. For many experts, corvids are the gold standard of avian intelligence.
Comparing the intellect of 2 different bird species isn’t always fair. Consequently, it’s difficult to say if parrots or crows are smarter. Regardless, psittacines and corvids are highly intelligent birds.