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Smartest Animals: The Amazing Crow

Updated on May 11, 2019

"Bird brain" doesn't apply to crows

Everyone knows the intelligence of chimps, elephants, and dolphins, but few know that birds have some standouts, especially the crow. Crows are amazingly adaptive, and have survived along with humans, even using us to their advantage in some circumstances (more on that later). Crows form family units, or social networks if you will.

Photo: Dave Irving has some amazing pictures of birds, insects, and animals

An elephant might never forget, but a crow will tell all his crow friends.

In one study, crows not only recognized faces of people, but were also to spread the knowledge of dangerous humans to other crows.

In a University of Washington study, researches captured crows wearing a specific "dangerous" mask. These crows were tagged and released. It was later found that anyone wearing the mask would be scolded by the crows captured later. The crows remembered the incident and were cawing at the researchers wearing the mask.

But there is more! Crows that were not captured would also scold the researchers. They had witnessed the event and were also angered by the researchers actions.

The most interesting thing of all, is that young crows, that weren't even alive at the time of initial capture, would also scold the researchers. They had somehow learned to recognize the mask. It would be like you hating the bully that gave your dad a wedgie in elementary school. They are able to communicate with each other, able to convey complex ideas and descriptions of people.

Photo: Kristel Jeuring

Source: Heather N. Cornell, John M. Marzluff and Shannon Pecoraro

Here is an interesting video by the same researchers

Crows make and use tools

The New Caledonian crow is unique, even among crows. New Caledonians have an amazing ability to both use and even make tools. They are commonly seen using sticks to pry insects out from hiding spots.

One study of two crows showed that they could adapt to obstacles to food. The two crows were placed in separate cages and both given a length of wire. One was curved, like a hook, the other straight.

The crow with the hooked wire was able to fish out some food out that he was otherwise unable to reach. The second crow watched the first bird's success and meal. She looked at her not-at-all hooked wire and proceeded to bend it into the proper shape, and was able to also enjoy a meal. They are able to observe, learn through that observation, and adapt to a wide variety of situations.

This puts them in the same league of tool use as chimps and humans.

In the video below, crows are seen dropping nuts in front of cars, so that they run over and break open the shell. The crow can then collect the meaty center.

Source: John Roach for National Geographic News

Crows can talk to each other

Crows make calls, and each one means something. Crows make a beware or "alert" calls when danger is nearby. More interesting than that, crows have a dialect, similar to how humans have accents.

The alert call in one location is different than that of another location. Crows also call in rhythms, usually when crows are arriving or leaving. The exact language of crows is not very well understood, but I think there is a lot to it!

Photo: Mr. T in DC

Crows Plan, use trickery and deceit

Two crows Munin and Hugin were being studied by Thomas Bugnyar. Dr. Bugnyar would place out sealed film containers with food inside. Hugin, the smaller crow, was much better at finding these containers than the larger Munin. Munin would quickly arrive and steal the food from Hugin. Hugin figured out a way to trick Munin. He would open an empty film container and start making noise, and pretend to eat from the empty container. Munin would arrive and try to steal the non-existent food, while Hugin would find a different container and feast!

Source: economist

Source: More from John Roach for National Geographic News

Picture: Vaikoovery

Crows like to have fun!

Check out this amazing video of a crow sliding down a roof, almost like he is snowboarding.

Initially, you think maybe something just came loose, but then the crow picks up his board and flies back up to the top to do it again!

Most animals simply exist to eat and reproduce. But many crow species show a level of intelligence way beyond that.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Crow stories? - Or leave a comment, please.

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    • profile image

      Uzuki Gems 

      7 years ago

      I love reading about animal intelligence. So now it's a question of whether it will be the octopus or the crow that inherits the earth :P

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Now a days crows are very rarely seen.I think this lens will bring some awareness among the people.

    • Grifts profile imageAUTHOR

      Devin Gustus 

      7 years ago

      @RoadMonkey: Wow, that looks like a really interesting book. I added it here!

    • RoadMonkey profile image


      7 years ago

      Some great informationon crows. I first read about them in Konrad Lorenz's book "King Solomon's Ring" and am glad to see people are still interested in these intelligent birds.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Fascinating read - I've heard crows are highly intelligent, but it's incredible that young crows (not alive at the time of initial capture) also scolded the researchers.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Interesting. If they had more beauty.) Thanks!

    • Grifts profile imageAUTHOR

      Devin Gustus 

      7 years ago

      @SavioC: Thanks!

    • SavioC profile image


      7 years ago

      Never realized this but they are really smart. I know that if a crow is dead then somehow the crows around it make noise and within seconds dozens of crows will appear from nowhere and make a huge noise. You are right they communicate with each other. Nice one.

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 

      7 years ago from Somewhere in England

      I like rooks - similar to crows but more gregarious. You see them in Europe but I'm not sure about other parts of the world. In winter they 'commute' backwards and forwards to massive roosting sites. They form a trail across the sky, miles long and lasting for an hour or so. It's like watching rush hour traffic.

    • Grifts profile imageAUTHOR

      Devin Gustus 

      7 years ago

      @JohnTannahill: Not what?

      Yes, they really are smart. Scary Smart.

      One of the other posters mentioned being tricked by a crow while the other two made off with his food.

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 

      7 years ago from Somewhere in England

      @SteveKaye: Nice thought but they're not really, are they?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Crows are very smart animals. Great lens and Very interesting read.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love crows..even though they can be noisy at times. I love watching them after it rains. They all walk along in grassy fields, looking down for worms and other bugs...seeking them out. I've also seen a flock (or is it a murder) of crows chase after a Golden Eagle who had a dead rabbit in its talons. They wanted that rabbit. They are definitely "thinking" birds.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      amazing smart birds!

      Great lens

    • Tim Bader profile image

      Tim Bader 

      7 years ago from Surrey, UK

      Very interesting read - who would have thought it?


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Birds are very smart. Great lens.

    • neosurk profile image

      Roberto Eldrum 

      7 years ago

      I can recall a story of crows when I was small. My mother had just warmed my milk and put it in a glass with two puffs on a plate. I was in my garden. My mom put the plate on the breakfast table and went inside. When I came, a crow tried to play with me (well, that's what I thought). I went after the crow, but later I realized that two of its friends literally "shoplifted" my puffs - and it was just 5 steps behind me, LOL! I have never been tricked that cleverly even by a human!! :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Tokyo is a heaven for the crows and people used to live with them..trying to keep their garbage from their attack....

    • Grifts profile imageAUTHOR

      Devin Gustus 

      7 years ago

      @qikey1 lm: Sounds great! I think I will.

    • profile image

      qikey1 lm 

      7 years ago

      Crow fans here :) Have you seen the PBS Nature doc: 'A Murder of Crows' ? It is very good and you can watch it online.

    • Aladdins Cave profile image

      Aladdins Cave 

      7 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Very good stuff. In Australia we have the white cockatoo. They are also very smart.

      Thank You

    • dbitterman profile image


      7 years ago

      They are a more remarkable bird than we give them credit for. Nice lens.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      There is a flock (a murder) of crows that knows just when to return to the neighbor's oak tree every year. Squawk Squawk all day.... acorns everywhere.

      Wonder why they don't attack the apple tree next door?

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      7 years ago

      I forget how cool crows are sometimes, thanks for reminding us about these amazing birds.

    • pcblogger lm profile image

      pcblogger lm 

      7 years ago

      there are lot of crows in my hometown house garden.. i can only identify one crow because he's one-footed.. :) good lens.

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 

      7 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      My father-in-law had a few "pet" crows that hung around his yard. They would come down and visit with him for years. It was interesting to watch.

    • writerkath profile image


      7 years ago

      Just loved the video of the crow "snowboarding!" We have lots of them here in New Hampshire, and on early summer mornings they begin insisting that we wake up as early as 4:30 am. We've asked them to wait until a more reasonable hour, but evidently they feel we should get up and enjoy the early dawn with them. :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I've heard stories that crows were used for witchcraft too. Is it true? But somehow I can say it's true based on experience. They are probably used because they are intelligent.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      We have crows in the cottage and they are noisy. It is good they only come once in a while.

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 

      7 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      Fascinating creature. I never knew that about them.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I just say that Crow is very sharp.

    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 

      7 years ago from Europe

      Hugin is my new favorite crow. OK so I didn't have a favorite before, but I'll pay more attention to them now, I'm fascinated.

    • Marcel W profile image

      Marcel White 

      7 years ago

      Congratulations for this interesting lens made to inform and not to sell stuff. I know that crows are very smart but donât like them very much because they use to pick the golf balls in the golf course. Golf players get angry with that. The interesting thing is that only inexperienced young crows or, perhaps, crows recently arrived do that. After they discover that golf balls are useless for them we can enjoy and live in harmony.

    • KateFeredayEshete profile image

      Kate Fereday Eshete 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      I live in Ethiopia and pied crows visit my home to steal food from my cats' bowls. I suspected that they knew me and now that I've read your lens, I think that is probably the case. I'm just working on a lens for the RocketSquid Quest due in today (23 September) and I've put an image of a pied crow feasting on my cats' dinner there. Thanks for a very interesting lens.

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 

      7 years ago from Lakewood New York

      Interesting lens, these are all thing that I did't know until now Thanks

    • Meganhere profile image


      7 years ago

      Crows are known to fly around a farm where they get shot at, so obviously they share that information.

    • Mary Stephenson profile image

      Mary Stephenson 

      7 years ago from California

      They would always beat my dad to the cherries. He would say they are almost ready to pick in a couple of days and the darn crows would be feasting on our cherries the next morning. He finally had to put a net over the tree and they would be yelling at him when he was doing it.

    • girlfriendfactory profile image


      7 years ago

      Crows are super tricky and full of deceit..I can't stand the pesky things!

    • ghoststorylover profile image


      7 years ago

      Very cute! :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is really interesting, I didn't know much about crows before now. I'm a bit scared of birds but still think they're beautiful creatures.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      "Awesome!" Birds are amazing. I wish I had a pet crow. Although birds aggravate my allergies

    • Grifts profile imageAUTHOR

      Devin Gustus 

      7 years ago

      @flycatcherrr: They can be rather noisy! I think crows are amazing too, so much intelligence hidden behind those eyes.

      Thanks for sharing with your mother!

    • flycatcherrr profile image


      7 years ago

      I'll be sharing this one with my mother, who is mad about crows. Personally, I'd like them a lot better if they would be a bit more quiet in the early mornings outside my bedroom window!


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