You may think that animals aren’t intelligent, but that is a misconception. In reality, they can perform some tasks that they are adapted to even better than humans. However, the question “are animals smart” is still a topic of debate among researchers. Some are of the opinion that animals can respond to specific stimuli while others claim that these creatures are genetically awarded particular useful instincts and are not capable of doing anything more. But what is the truth? What is the claim that we should believe?
Well, it isn’t that simple, intelligence is a complex concept, and the answer varies according to the different perceptions. The problem with animals is that their intellect can’t be measured quantitatively. You can’t get them to take tests or compare them with their peers. Researchers then designed tests to measure the animal’s cognitive abilities but they couldn’t find the right answers. After a lot of trial and error, they realized that the mistake they were making was testing animals using tasks that only humans could perform. Once they evaluated each species for particular behaviors that the animal understood, they were able to identify their intelligence.
Which Species are the Smartest?
We have all heard of the cleverness of the fox and the intelligence of dolphins. Now generally you may view dogs and cats smarter than birds, reptiles, and insects. It may surprise you, but birds are one of the smartest creatures in the world. Our feathered companions are intelligent and can adapt to new conditions and environments. A practical example of this is the fact that birds cover distances of up to 44000 miles during migration for the sake of food and other resources.
They Have Proportionately Large Brains
To analyze the intelligence of birds, we can consider the brain size and structure. Studies show that their brains are bigger as compared to the small bodies. Furthermore, the different regions of a bird’s brain have higher connectivity than rest of the mammals. Well, I am not surprised, the way my budgie mimics everything that we say around him speaks a lot about his intelligence. But that is just one example; many other observations testify the claim. For instance, the woodpecker finches cut sticks into appropriate lengths to use them as tools for hunting insects or the carrion crows that place nuts on the road so the incoming cars may crush the shells.
Well, there are about 18000 species in the world, let’s have a look at 10 of the most intelligent birds that made it to the list:
The US has more than 30 million crows, yet the animals don’t get the appreciation they deserve. Many of us may consider them creepy, but they are among the smartest creatures in the world. Crows are capable of solving complex problems; their brain is almost the size of a thumb. Studies also show that they are capable of counting up to 5, creating customized tools for their use and can remember faces. Researchers observed this phenomenon by taking scans of their brains that showed that they could identify people who seem friendly or dangerous and memorize their faces. The entire Corvidae, a family that includes crows, ravens, jays, and rooks have social structures that are highly complex; they share information among the whole group and then make decisions. They are also capable of building strong bonds with humans.
The bird is one of the cleverest among all the species and is known for its antics. Kea is a type of parrot that originates from New Zealand. Although keas are friendly and playful birdies, they have a reputation for being notorious when it comes to stealing food. The Keas trouble people and have a habit of destroying cars and equipment. However, they have outscored animals such as gibbons and apes on some intelligence tests. Another study revealed an unusual characteristic of non-human creatures that kea’s demonstrated. In a task where one bird had to wait for another partner for over a minute to work together and release food, the Keas showed remarkable intelligence and teamwork. It revealed their ability to determine when they needed to work as a team and wait for a cooperative partner.
These lively birds belong to the family of parrots and are not just smart but affectionate. Cockatoos have excellent speech abilities and can imitate the sounds and words they hear. Research reveals that they are more intelligent than four-year-old children. The study showed that cockatoos could recognize an object that is hidden. Further, they can track the same item if you place it in a different location. In fact, their ability of object permanence is higher than four-year-old children. If you are keeping one as a pet, make sure to provide plenty of entertaining toys in the cage.
The macaws are not just full of color but also have a vibrant personality. They may seem funny and entertaining but are quite intelligent, playful, and affectionate. They are parrots that belong to the any one of the six genera with the largest being about 4 ft long. An analysis of the sequence of the genome of macaws shows that the genome had DNA basis which is one-third of what mammals have. They can perform magic tricks and have excellent cognitive abilities.
The greys are famous for their talking abilities; they can mimic our sounds and words and pick up on it quickly. They can learn up to 200 words or even more and can also imitate sounds of animals to scare predators away, but that isn’t all. According to a study these parrots have excellent reasoning skills which can be and can find hidden food by using their detection skills. Human children develop this ability at three years of age so the African Greys may be considered smarter than three-year-olds.
Another member of the Corvidae family, the Ravens are also among the world’s most intelligent species. Ravens are known to work in teams while hunting food as one partner distracts the parent while the other attacks the newborn. Studies also reveal that Ravens can plan for the future. The researchers observed that the birds kept the tools aside that they thought would be beneficial for them later. They also have their unique calls for addressing other ravens and have excellent memory skills; they can recognize each other after years of separation.
These are related to crows and jays; undoubtedly the family has some of the most intelligent birdies. The nutcrackers are also famous for their memory and knowledge of their surroundings. During the summer season, they collect massive amounts of pine seeds for winter and bury them over an area of 200 square miles. They remember all the locations (they can be about 3000) where they store these seeds. They are also smart enough to count numbers. Among a given pile of seeds, the nutcrackers will always choose the one with the higher quantity of seeds.
Different species of Jays are members of the family such as the Blue Jay, Eurasian Jay, the California Scrub Jay to name a few. The Eurasian Jay is smart as he knows just how to impress his mate. He gets gifts for the mate and that too precisely what the mate most likely wants. The Scrub Jays are planners who think about the future. For instance, they will decide what they want to eat for breakfast the next day, find the food and store it. The Captive Blue Jays are smart and use paper from the bottom of the cage to create tools that can help reach the items outside the enclosure. Recent research also reveals the ability of Jay’s to mimic familiar sounds and can imitate humans as well.
These are the only birds to pass the mirror test. The test is a method of gauging how self-aware a creature is. In the experiment, a mark or sticker is applied to the animal in a spot they can’t see. They are then made to stand in front of a mirror if the bird scratches at the mark and tries to remove it; it is an indication that they are self-aware. The Eurasian magpies successfully passed it. They are also known to perform well in the game of “hide and seek”; their performance is at par with 4 or 5-year-olds. They are also social and can hoard shiny objects,
Another member of the crow family, the Rooks have exceptional task solving skills. They can solve the Aesop’s Fable task where a crow has to drink water from a partially filled pitcher. The talented rooks also use the same technique as employed by the crow in the book and drink the water. They also use and even build their tools. A study conducted at the universities of Cambridge and Queen Mary revealed that rooks always chose the correct type of tool when presented with a problem to solve and a set of instruments.
Danica Boyd is a bird enthusiast and nature lover. She has been keeping pet birds for several years and now has tons of practical experience in caring for birds. She writes for the team behind birdcagesnow.com.