Corvid intelligence

You’ve probably heard more than once that corvids are very intelligent birds. But do you know how we actually know that? After all, it’s not like we can give them IQ test to solve, can we?

  • 20.04.2022.

Scientists have different ways of measuring animal intelligence: a variety of tools adapted to each species. One of such tools is the mirror test when they put a mirror in front of an animal and observe its reactions. Did you know that magpies are aware of the fact that what they see in the mirror is just their reflection, while dogs and cats do not pass this test? Human babies start to recognize themselves in a mirror around the 18th month of their life.

Another proof of corvids’ intelligence is their ability to solve complex problems and not only use different objects as tools, but even modify them to suit their needs! The best-researched species in this regard is the New Caledonian crow, a cousin of our hooded crows. The experiments proved that they can plan ahead, solve complex problems, and even understand concepts as difficult as water displacement! All these skills are truly unique in the animal world; apart from corvids, only the apes represent that high level of cognitive abilities. It also means that New Caledonian (and probably other corvids too) possess intelligence equal to a 5-7 year-old-child!

But not only exotic species of corvids are this special. Our rooks also can modify available objects into tools to gain food (like, for example, bend a piece of wire into a hook). They do not, however, contrary to New Caledonian crows, do this in the wild – it seems that they simply don’t need it. But in captivity (in the lab) they proved to possess this ability. Moreover, they can cooperate to gain food – for example, simultaneously pull the strings to release a tasty treat.

See for yourself how amazing crows are!

Written by: Alicja Maciejewska