How Smart Are Crows? The Answer May Shock You.

December 11, 2015 | Joanne Kennell

A closeup of a crow's head with bright blue eyes.
Photo credit: (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Biologists say they are smarter than the average seven-year-old child.

There are a lot of people who believe that crows represent a bad omen or are a sign of death, mainly because they are all black.  However, as a spirit animal, crows are considered lucky and associated with life’s mysteries and magic.  Whether you believe crows to be lucky or a bad omen, do you know how intelligent they are?

They are crazy smart.  In fact, crows are smarter than the average five to seven-year-old child.  Here’s why:


Using Tools/Problem Solving

Crows are fantastic tool makers — they are often seen in nature tearing strips of leaves and bending them into hooks to get bugs from tree trunks.  Not only that, they use stiff leaves or blades of grass to make knives, and then use those knives to create other tools.  In one lab experiment involving hard-to-reach food, a crow bent the end of a wire using the edge of a glass as a cantilever.  It then used the hooked wire to retrieve another stick that was long enough to reach the food it wanted.  Crows teach these techniques to their young.

SEE ALSO: Crafty Crows Teach Each Other How to Make Tools

Understand Complex Principles

Crows understand complex concepts like displacement and gravity.  In a round of experiments, four crows were placed alone in a room containing a small pile of pebbles, as well as a worm in a tube of water just out of the crow’s reach.  Two of the birds took two attempts to figure out the task, and the other two birds got it immediately.  The birds also understood that grabbing the larger pebbles would displace more water, and they only dropped the stones until they could reach the worm.


Make Plans

Plenty of animals store food, like squirrels, but crows take it to another level.  Crows are omnivores (eat both meat and plant life), and known thieves.  When crows have food they want to store, they make sure no other crows are watching.  If there is another crow around, crows will pretend to hide their food and stuff the food into their chest feathers.  However, since all crows do this, they will follow each other which sometimes leads to an epic air battle.



Crows are extremely adaptive.  They have been seen cracking walnuts by dropping them at a height needed to burst them open.  Now if that doesn’t amaze you, this will.  Crows will also drop walnuts on roads waiting for cars to run them over — and if it doesn’t work the first time, they move the walnut and try again.  These crows also memorize traffic patterns so they know exactly when to drop the nuts, and retrieve the nuts only when the lights are red and the crosswalk sign is on.  A skill most humans have not yet mastered.


Fantastic Memory

Crows will change their entire migration pattern to avoid regions where even a single crow has been killed in the past.  Generations upon generations later, they will still remember specific houses were a crow has died.  Planning their revenge maybe?

Not only that, crows remember faces.  Researchers on a Seattle campus decided to perform an experiment with crows to determine if they are able to remember human faces.  They captured and tagged seven crows, and then let them go — while wearing creepy skin masks.  Amazingly, every time the scientists walked around campus with the masks the crows scolded and dive-bombed them.  And it was not only the seven captured crows, it was all the crows.  Even successive generations of crows would display the exact same behavior when they encountered the masks.  Clearly crows talk to each other, and they hold a grudge!  

Still do not believe that crows are extremely smart?  Watch this video where a crow solves an eight-step puzzle.  It will definitely change your mind.




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