Nature has endowed many creatures with intelligence but the crow seems to stand out as a symbol of cleverness and remarkable problem-solving abilities. Known for their adaptability and intelligence, crows are particularly proficient in using tools and solving puzzles. Let’s look at the remarkable intelligence of crows and how they use tools to solve complex problems.

The Anatomy of Crow Intelligence 

Crows have incredibly large brains for their size and have the most neurons for their size among birds. The avian neocortex is capable of complex problem-solving, sensory integration, and learning. According to a New York Times article, birds learn through trial and error, as do other creatures with brains much larger than a crow’s, such as primates.

Crows are social birds and are also excellent problem-solvers when it comes to understanding their environment and using that knowledge to their advantage. They learn from each other and from observing their environment—similar cognitive processes to those seen in primates. Additionally, crows have demonstrated tool-making and tool-using capabilities that are rare for birds.

Ability to Understand Cause and Effect 

Solving complex problems requires the ability to understand cause-and-effect relationships between objects and events. Crows have demonstrated their ability to understand this concept by using one object to access another—the classic example being using a piece of wire to get a peanut out of a too-narrow crevice or bottle. This involves learning a sequence of steps, recognizing or choosing the right tool, and having the knowledge of how the tool can be used to access the nut.

In the wild, crows have been seen using tools to access hard-to-reach food. In one study, a captive crow was observed tearing pieces of cardboard to retrieve food. This process involved four steps, including tearing, holding, poking, and lifting to successfully remove the food.

Ability to Recognize and Remember Faces 

Crows are able to recognize and remember human faces, even after years at a glance. To demonstrate this, a study was conducted in which birds were subjected to a mock trial. One researcher donned a Dick Cheney mask and trapped crows, while the other researcher, wearing a different mask, fed them. After repeating this process, the crows began to recognize the Cheney “masked” researcher as a threat and would flee whenever they saw him.

The ability to recognize and remember human faces clearly is unique to crows. The ability, along with their increased brain size and complex problem-solving capabilities, is thought to be why crows are so smart. In another study, crows were shown to recognize and avoid an individual who had previously trapped them, even when wearing different clothes.

Ability to Learn Symphonic Songs 

Although the human brain is clearly bigger and the differences in species anatomy make behavioral comparison difficult, the fact remains that birds can learn accents and vary their songs—this has been demonstrated in songbirds, such as the European starling.

In the wild, crows are known to have incredibly complex vocal repertoires. In captivity, crows have been observed reciting some of the most intricate, sophisticated, and original compositions heard in any birdsong. In one experiment, captive crows recited Bach’s “Cantata No. 147” and 50 other works by Beethoven, Cosma and Buxtehude.

We have seen that crows are incredibly smart and have the potential to solve complex problems. Indeed, their ability to recognize faces, use tools, and learn intricate songs and musical pieces is a testament to their advanced level of intelligence. The anatomy of the crow’s brain, the social intelligence shared among their own colonies, and the amount of learning they are capable of demonstrate their remarkable problem-solving capabilities.