Are Crows Smart? An Exploration of Corvid Intelligence

When you think of an animal being “smart,” you may picture a Great Ape, such as a chimpanzee or orangutan, or even a large mammal like a dolphin or elephant. But have you ever wondered if a crow can be smart too? It turns out the answer is yes; crows, as well as many other birds and animals, are capable of remarkable levels of intelligence. In this article, we will explore crows’ level of intelligent behavior and delve into what sets crows apart as highly intelligent birds.

What is Intelligence in Animals?

Before exploring the intelligence of crows, let’s quickly consider what is meant by “intelligence” in the context of animals and other living beings. Intelligence can refer to mental abilities such as problem-solving, the capacity for abstraction and generalization, flexible behavior, the ability to adapt to changing environments, tool use, and more.

Examples of Smart Crow Behavior

Now that we’ve established the criteria for intelligence, let’s take a closer look at the smart behavior of crows.

Tool Use

One of the most remarkable examples of intelligence in crows is tool use. Several species of crows have been observed fashioning and using tools of their own creation. For example, New Caledonian crows can fashion tools from sticks and leaves to extract food from crevices much too narrow for their beaks. They have even been observed using pieces of their environment such as rocks to tamper pieces of food before pecking at them.

Problem Solving

Crows have also demonstrated impressive problem-solving abilities. In a study published in 2019, researchers tested five crows’ abilities to complete a problem-solving task. The crows were presented with a series of boxes which each had a lever affixed to the top. The crows chose the correct boxes with increasing accuracy as the experiment progressed, suggesting they had learned how to apply their problem-solving skills in this situation.


Crows are also incredibly skilled at communication, with some species such as the Carrion Crow being able to understand up to 280 different distinct calls. In addition, crows can be taught to recognize certain symbols, words, and numbers and can differentiate between human voices.

Our Understanding of Crow Intelligence

Crow intelligence never ceases to amaze researchers. Crows have been recorded manufacturing hooks, making and using tools, memorizing huge numbers of multiple bird-call variations, using analogies, and much more.

If we look at crows in the context of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, it makes sense that these birds have developed such impressive intelligence: after all, birds which are unable to think quickly and solve problems could soon find themselves out of luck in a rapidly changing world.

Common Misconceptions about Crow Intelligence

Despite the impressive level of intelligence possessed by crows, there are still some common misconceptions about their ability to think and reason.

The Myth of Corvids as Vengeful Tricksters

One of the most common of these misconceptions is that crows are vengeful tricksters, capable of plotting to outsmart and harm people. While this idea may make for a good movie plot, the truth is crows simply lack the level of sophistication required to plot such elaborate schemes.

The Myth of Corvids Being Inferior to Other Smart Animals

Another common misconception is that crows are less intelligent than other smart animals such as primates or dolphins. In reality, crows are capable of complex problem solving, tool use, and communication skills. While they may not be able to do some of the more abstract tasks that primates and dolphins can, they have still demonstrated impressive levels of intelligence.

When it comes to intelligence, crows certainly hold their own. They have demonstrated impressive problem-solving ability, tool use, and communication skills. While there are still common misconceptions about crow intelligence, it is clear that these birds are incredibly intelligent creatures.

Whether it is foraging for food, fending off predators, or even playing games, crows show us just how adaptable and intelligent these birds can be. From a scientific standpoint, crows are an impressive example of evolution, demonstrating how quickly an animal can evolve in order to survive and even thrive, in the face of ever-changing environmental challenges.