Crows can count out loud like children

Scientists have long known about the high mental abilities of crows, which is why they are even called “feathered monkeys.” Although some studies have shown that these birds are even smarter than monkeys. They can count to 30, recognize people's faces and voices, if necessary, can use foreign objects to solve a particular problem, solve complex puzzles, etc. For example, crows throw nuts on the highway so that passing cars can crack them. In a recent study, scientists discovered another feature of them, which indicates the high intellectual abilities of these birds — they can count out loud, that is, “one, two, three…”, etc. This makes crows the only species other than humans that know numbers. Moreover, scientists suggest that their language model may be similar to humans.

Crows can count out loud like children. Crows turned out to be even smarter than scientists expected. Photo.

Crows turned out to be even smarter than scientists expected

Crows count out loud

Crows count out loud


One of the features of human language is that we associate words with objects or with what we see and hear. For example, if we see five apples, we can say “five.” However, before learning to count, children say numbers out loud, that is, “one, two, three, four, five,” or “one, one, one…”, etc. With this count, the number of words corresponds to the number of objects.

A recent study has shown that crows also have, or at least can learn, this ability. Scientists managed to find out this during an experiment with three crows (Corvus corone) raised in a university laboratory. The researchers taught them to “croak” one to four times when they saw a specific Arabic numeral on a screen or a specific sound (a guitar chord or a drum beat).

Crows count out loud. Scientists have taught crows to recognize numbers. Photo.

Scientists have taught crows to recognize numbers

As reported in a study published in the journal Scince, after the birds completed a task, that is, “caw” a certain number of times, they confirmed its completion by pressing a key on the screen. For correctly completing the task, the crows received a treat — mealworm. In the vast majority of cases, the crows performed the task correctly, for example, if they saw the number “3,” they “croaked” 3 times. This suggests that they understood the logic of the task, which means they have a number sense, that is, they are able to associate audio and video signals with numbers.

Crows can plan

The researchers report that crows sometimes made mistakes when they saw the number “4.” Obviously they didn't like her. Sometimes they even immediately pressed the button to end the test without croaking four times. The ravens' favorite number was one — they quickly completed the task, since it was the easiest.

At the same time, the authors of the study noticed one interesting nuance – before making sounds, the birds thought. That is, they needed some time to plan the task. When the crows needed to “caw” more times, it took them longer to solve the problem.

Crows know how to plan. Before completing a task, crows thought about it. Photo.

Before completing the task, the crows thought about it

As the researchers themselves say, the longer reaction time suggests that the birds had to think, organize and encode the electrical signal from the brain to the muscles. Delay corresponds to mental planning. People do the same thing when asked a question that requires a more than one-word answer.

Scientists say crows' vocal skills are similar to those used by babies. They may be an “evolutionary predecessor» more complex counting, which is used by adults. Thanks to the current research, we now know that “numerical competence,” which was thought to be a unique feature of human intelligence, is also characteristic of ravens.

Crows can plan. Crows have about the same counting skills as babies. Photo.

Crows have approximately the same counting skills as babies

Why are ravens so smart

Recall that scientists recently discovered another feature of the intelligence of ravens – they have recursive thinking, which was also previously thought peculiar only to humans. In particular, scientists have not found the ability for recursive thinking in monkeys. By following the link you can learn more about what recursive thinking is and how researchers managed to discover such an ability in birds.

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But how can crows with a relatively small brain be smarter than monkeys? The thing is that birds have a more advanced brain than mammals. One study found that it is more energy efficient and has a higher density of neurons. Therefore, some birds are able to surprise with their mental abilities, which, for example, is well known to parrot owners.