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What is the smartest bird to own?

What is the smartest bird to own?

When the lights change, the birds hop in front of the cars and place walnuts, which they picked from the adjoining trees, on the road. After the lights turn green again, the birds fly away and vehicles drive over the nuts, cracking them open. Finally, when it’s time to cross again, the crows join the pedestrians and pick up their meal.

If the cars miss the nuts, the birds sometimes hop back and put them somewhere else on the road. Or they sit on electricity wires and drop them in front of vehicles.

Biologists already knew the corvid family–it includes crows, ravens, rooks, magpies and jackdaws–to be among the smartest of all birds. But this remarkable piece of behavior–it features in the final program of “Life of Birds”–would seem to be a particularly acute demonstration of bird intelligence.

The crows in Japan have only been cracking nuts this way since about 1990. They have since been seen doing it in California. Researchers believe they probably noticed cars driving over nuts fallen from a walnut tree overhanging a road. The crows already knew about dropping clams from a height on the seashore to break them open, but found this did not work for walnuts because of their soft green outer shell.

Other birds do this, although not with quite the same precision. In the Dardia Mountains of Greece, eagles can be seen carrying tortoises up to a great height and dropping them on to rocks below. The hapless Aeschylus (525-456 BC), a father of Greek tragic drama, is said to have met his end by this means.

A seer predicted he would die when a house fell on him, so the wary scribe departed for the hillsides, well away from any dwellings, where he believed he was safe. He wasn’t. An eagle is said to have mistaken Aeschylus’ bald pate for a stone, and dropped the creature in its “house” onto it.

Scientists have argued for decades over whether wild creatures, including birds, show genuine intelligence.

Some still consider the human mind to be unique, with animals capable of only the simplest mental processes. But a new generation of scientists believe that creatures, including birds, can solve problems by insight and even learn by example, as human children do. Birds can even talk in a meaningful way.

Other birds and some primates have been seen to use objects to forage. But what is unusual here is that the crows also make their own tools. Using their beaks as scissors and snippers, they fashion hooks from twigs, and make barbed, serrated rakes or combs from stiff leathery leaves. And they don’t throw the tools away after one use–they carry them from one foraging place to another.

Scientists are still debating what this behavior–shown in program three–means. Man’s use of tools is considered a prime indication of his intelligence. Is this a skill acquired by chance? Did the crows acquire tool making skills by trial and error rather than planning? Or, in its ability to adapt and exploit an enormous range of resources and habitats, is the crow closer to humans than any other creature?

Sometimes a bird species’ very survival depends on its ability to learn fast. Birds need to recognize a cuckoo egg dumped in their own nest and either throw out the strange egg or desert the nest to start afresh. In Japan, the common cuckoo recently switched to a new, unsuspecting host on which to dump its eggs, the azure-winged magpie. The emerging cuckoo chicks ejected their foster siblings, and the magpie population dropped dramatically.

The captive African grey parrot Alex is one of a number of parrots and macaws now believed to have the intelligence and emotional make-up of a 3 to 4 year old child. Under the tutelage of Professor Pepperberg, he acquired a vocabulary of over 100 words. He could say the words for colors and shapes and, apparently, use them meaningfully. He has learned the labels for more than 35 different objects; he knows when to use “no,” and phrases such as “come here”, “I want X,” and “Wanna go Y.”

A bird’s ability to understand, or speak, another bird’s language can be very valuable. New Zealand saddlebacks, starling-like birds, occupy the same territory for years. They have distinct song “dialects” passed on through the generations.

New territory vacancies are hard to find, so young males are always on the look-out for new widows into whose territory they can move. While they wander around the forest, they learn the different dialect songs, just as we might learn a language or develop a regional dialect.

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As soon as a territory-owning male dies, a new young male may move in to take over within 10 minutes. He will immediately start singing the dialect of the territory he is in.

Intelligence–if this is what scientists agree these birds possess–is not limited to the birds we always thought of as “bright.” In recent experiments at Cardiff University in Britain, a pigeon identified subtle differences between abstract designs that even art students did not notice. It could even tell that a Picasso was not the same as a Monet. The experiment seems to show that pigeons can hold concepts, or ideas, in their heads. The visual concept for the pigeon is Picasso’s painting style.

Some birds seem to indulge in “intelligent” play. The kea, a New Zealand parrot, has been filmed ripping (inedible) windscreen wipers off cars. Young keas, in a neat variation of ringing the doorbell and running away, are known to drop rocks on roofs to make people run outside.

Jack the jackdaw was raised by wildlife film producer John Downer. As soon as Jack was mature, he was released into the wild. However, he couldn’t stay away. “One thing he is totally fascinated by is telephones,” said Downer. “He knows how to hit the loudspeaker button and preset dial button. Once we came into the office to find him squawking down the telephone to the local travel agent.”

Jack also likes to fly down onto the mirror of the production car when he sees somebody going out. “He turns into the wind, gets his head down and surfs on the air current until we reach about 30 mph when he gives up.

“Like all jackdaws, Jack shows great versatility and intelligence. Because he has to exploit a wide range of foods, he is investigating things all the time.”

However, scientists believe it is not physical need that drives creatures to become smarter, but social necessity. The complexities of living together require a higher level of intelligence. Corvids and parrots, along with dolphins, chimps, and humans are all highly social–and smart–animals.

Some ravens certainly apply their intelligence for the good of the flock. In North America, they contact other ravens to tell them the location of a carcass. Ravens are specialized feeders on the carcasses of large mammals such as moose during the harsh winter months of North America. The birds roost together at night on a tree, arriving noisily from all directions shortly before sunset. The next morning, all the birds leave the roost as highly synchronized groups at dawn, giving a few noisy caws, followed by honking.

They may all be flying off in the direction taken by a bird, which had discovered a carcass the previous day. This bird leads the others to his food store, apparently sharing his prize finding with the rest of the flock.

Ravens share information about their findings of food carcasses because dead animals are patchily distributed and hard to find. Many eyes have a better chance of finding a carcass, and once one has been located, the information is pooled.

Although the carcass now has to be shared between more individuals, the heavy snowfall and risk of mammal scavengers taking the kill mean that a single bird or a small group could not eat it all alone anyway. Some are even believed to solicit help with the carving, by tipping off other predators, such as wolves, about the meat so they will rip it open and make it more accessible to the ravens.

The African honeyguide lures badgers to bees nests, and feeds on the leftovers. To humans they offer their services as paid employees. They call and fly backwards and forward to draw local tribespeoples’ attention to the location of honeycombs, and are then rewarded with a share of the takings for their trouble.

Of course, the bird world has its share of “bird brains.” There are the birds that build three nests behind three holes under a flower pot, because they can’t remember which is which, and birds that attack their own reflections. The Hawaiian goose is as innocent of danger as a baby crawling along the girder in an unfinished skyscraper. It would walk up to an introduced mongoose on Hawaii, and be attacked.

The level of intelligence among birds may vary. But no living bird is truly stupid. Each generation of birds that leaves the protection of its parents to become independent has the inborn genetic information that will help it to survive in the outside world and the skills that it has learned from its parents.

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The Smartest Bird

The more we study bird intelligence, the more the assumptions that ‘the size of their brain is nut-size’ are breaking down. Studies have shown, that Crows make tools, Ravens solve puzzles, and Parrots boast a diverse vocabulary.

Ravens and Crows are earth’s smartest birds because their brains may be tiny, but they have been known to outsmart children and apes.

The birds are listed from Smart to Smartest.

Blue Jay

They combine beauty, brains, and spirit in a sleek three-ounce package topped with a perky little crest. Blue Jays primarily feed an incubating mate or growing young, rather than for their own meals.

A scientist narrated that, One year, two tame squirrels accepted peanuts from my hand. A pair of Blue Jays took notice and started stealing the peanuts after the squirrels hid them. Soon the jays were skipping the middleman. One would take the peanuts from my hand, but the other was too skittish. I had to set the peanuts down and stand back for that one to approach (They kinda used the squirrel as bait).

I whistle whenever I put peanuts in the window feeder by my desk. A pair of jays flies in and carries them off. Some mornings, the birds are already waiting. When they spot me, they make a jolly squawk as I crank open the window. Knowing that these spunky, intelligent birds recognize me gives my whole day a glow.

Amazon Parrot

Amazon parrots are highly intelligent and curious birds, very outgoing and renowned talkers. They adapt well to captivity, adjusting easily to their cage. Amazons require a great deal of mental stimulation. Without the proper attention, social interaction and toys, an Amazon parrot is prone to behavioral problems.

It is highly intelligent and curious and also loves to explore their surroundings. Considered by many to be the most trainable of all parrots. Have the capacity to learn a large vocabulary.

Tamed birds readily adapt to new surroundings and activities. It gets expose early to daily activities in your household as well as to other pets. Need environmental enrichment, interesting toys, and foraging exercises to reduce the chance of behavioral problems. Can be very noisy and destructive.


Cockatoos are the first animal observed making musical instruments. When courting, male palm cockatoos of Australia use twigs and seed pods to create drumsticks. Each male has a unique musical style a rhythm of his own that he creates by beating the tools against hollow trees.

Though palm cockatoos don’t dance while drumming, other species have exhibited a gift for boogying to a beat.

Snowball’s performance is a delight to watch, but it also helped scientists discover that birds can follow a beat. By speeding the song up and down, they determined that Snowball actually does have a sense of tempo and rhythm.

Great-tailed grackles, belongs to the same family as blackbirds and orioles, a group not often considered particularly smart.

When presented with classic tests given to crows and ravens, great-tailed grackles passed with flying colors.

Grackles were given puzzles containing food as a prize. Not only did they learn to solve the problem, when the rules of the puzzle changed, the birds nimbly adapted their strategies.

It approached the puzzle in a different way, demonstrating individual styles of thinking, a quality they share with us humans.

African Grey Parrots

While many species of parrots have a penchant for human speech, the African grey parrot is the most accomplished. they live so long that they can amass a lot of intelligence and a lot of memories.


Macaws can live many years, while chickens usually do not, and therefore, our macaw genome sequence may help shed light on the genetic factors that influence longevity and intelligence. They can live 50 to 75 years and often outlive their owners.

They are considered to be among the most intelligent of all birds and also one of the most affectionate because it is believed they are sensitive to human emotions.

Kea look very intelligent, and they behave very intelligently. Humans are blessed with the latter, which is why we believe we are so smart, but it looks like kea are right up there with us.

Kea can learn and understand social cues from other animals, using these coded signals to make decisions that benefit them. It can use social cues, even from humans, to make their decision.


Crows do nearly as well as ravens solving intelligence tests, they have an uncanny memory for human faces and can remember if that particular person is a threat. “They seem to have a good sense that every person is different and that they need to approach them differently.”

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A scientist narrated his story with crows around his lab;

The crows around here, they know my face. While at first the birds living near the lab seemed to dislike him for approaching their nests, they love him now that he’s started leaving the birds healthy treats.

“They know my car, they know my walk, they know me 10 miles away from where they’ve ever encountered me before. They’re just amazing that way.”


Ravens are among the most intelligent birds that have the edge on tackling tough problems. Science revealed that Ravens even pre-plan tasks, a behavior long believed unique to humans and their relatives.

In the simple experiment, scientists taught the birds how a tool can help them access a piece of food. When offered a selection of objects almost 24 hours later, the Ravens selected that specific tool again, and performed the task to get their treat. “Monkeys have not been able to solve tasks like this».

The 10 Best Types of Pet Birds

Birds can make for some of the most gentle, friendly, and long-lived pets you can invite into your home. Our Tracy vets give their recommendations for 10 of the best types of companion birds to brighten up your home.

The Types of Birds Pet Owners Love

While Birds make for excellent companions, not all birds take equally well to domesticated life.

Listed below are 10 of the most common types of pet birds. They are all friendly, intelligent species capable of learning a few tricks and adding some colorful plumage to your home! Some of them can even hold something of a conversation, with a little work!

Every bird has different needs for excellent care, so we are here to help you choose a feathery friend that is right for your lifestyle.

When you’re shopping for all types of pet birds, always buy from a reputable breeder or bird store. Healthy and well-socialized birds will make the best pets.

Parakeets (AKA Budgies or Budgerigars)

Parakeets are perhaps the most popular type of pet bird the world over. They are exceptionally affectionate and friendly companion birds when properly trained and cared for.

Parakeets are among the most low-maintenance types of birds kept as pets, being among the smallest companion birds as well as relatively easy to train in their youth. Males especially are known to be great birds for first-time owners, as they bond easily to their owners and are simple to train.

Noted for their beautiful and varied feathers, parakeets are very active and playful birds eager to please; parakeets are talking birds who can be taught to mimic spoken phrases as a delightful party trick.

When left to their own devices, parakeets are singing birds, filling your home with the sounds of happy chirping! Parakeets can be kept as single pets or in pairs. Once you’ve settled in and trained your first parakeet, they are great birds to consider adding a second, as they’ll love having a playmate when you’re away!

Species Info

Weight: 1 ounce

Length: 6 to 8 inches

Lifespan: When cared for properly a pet budgie has a life expectancy of 7 -15 years

Physical Characteristics: Found in a variety of colors including neon green, yellow, blue, violet, and more with black bars on head, wings and back.

Parakeets are a type of pet bird


Cockatiels are among the most communitive and emotional birds. Famed for the crest on the top of their head, they use it to communicate exactly how they are feeling to their flock (in this case, you!)

The crest on top of a cockatiel’s head indicates the bird’s emotional state; a flattened head crest means the bird is fearful or angry; a completely vertical crest indicates your cockatiel is startled or excited.
While some manage to train their cockatiels to talk, they are much more well known for their quirk of mimicking sounds around them including phones, alarms, and even outdoor birds.

Female Cockatiels are among the most gentle of avian pets, while male cockatiels have a little extra spunk and are more inclined to mimic sounds and performing for their owners.

Perhaps the cutest thing about Cockatiels is their trademark whistle, be sure to watch out for their it; if they whistle for you, it’s a compliment, cockatiels are a type of bird that whistles at things they like!

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A member of the parrot family, these smart little birds crave social interaction and require an owner who can provide them with the time and attention they need in order to thrive and prevent loneliness, or depression. It’s recommended to keep cockatiels in pairs so they do not get lonely when you have to leave the home; single cockatiels can be kept as pets, but they require near-constant attention from their owner to stay in high spirits. Another thing to consider before adopting cockatiels is that they require a very large cage filled with perches to get the right amount of exercise and feel comfortable in their home, so make sure you have enough space for a proper cockatiel habitat set aside.

Species Info

Weight: 3 ounces

Length: 12 to 13 inches (adults)

Physical Characteristics: Predominantly gray feathers with orange spots around the ears and yellow and white accents. Males are yellow-headed while females are almost completely gray.

Lifespan: With proper love and care a pet cockatiel can easily live for 15 — 20 years. In rare cases, these birds have been known to live for as long as 30 years.

Cockatiels are a type of pet bird


Though they’ll enjoy your time together, doves typically aren’t overly demanding of their owners’ time or attention. This makes doves the ideal type of pet bird for owners with busier schedules or who cannot be home all the time. These birds are easygoing; when you do handle or hand feed them, doves can be incredibly gentle and sweet domestic pets.

They nonetheless are, like most birds, social creatures and if kept alone should get plenty of time to fly about and interact with their human caretakers. Doves are great pets for older children who can understand the importance of gentle handling. Many dove owners love them for their soothing coos.

Unlike parrots, doves cannot climb up and down cage bars but instead need to fly from perch to perch, this necessitates a huge cage for the tiny birds to feel at home.

Species Info

Weight: 5 to 8 ounces

Length: 11 to 13 inches

Physical Characteristics: Brown and dull gray feathers, black eyes, beak, and collar surrounding the neck. Alternative colors include orange, white and pied (ring-necked doves).

Lifespan: When well cared for a pet dove can live from 8 -15 years depending on the species.

Doves are a type of pet bird


For centuries the canary has been a popular companion for birdkeepers. Canaries are a diverse bunch, having been bred into more than 200 breeds, each with its own appearance and temperament.

Canaries are shyer than other birds on this list and do not like to be handled, so you might need to put in a little extra work to overcome their timid nature and bond with your new friend after taking a Canary home. Much like doves, canaries require a large flight cage to stay happy and healthy.

Canaries are famed for their singing voice, but it is actually only the males who sing. If you’re looking to befriend a flighted bard to serenade your home a male canary may be the pet for you, while those seeking a more quiet friendship should look into caring for a female canary.

Species Info

Weight: Less than 1 ounce

Length: 4 to 8 inches

Physical Characteristics: These lovely birds can be yellow or green, bright orange or brown. Known for their vibrant color and ability to carry a tune, canaries are ideal if you’re a beginner who isn’t sure if they want a bird that requires a lot of attention. While they’d prefer not to be handled, canaries are happy to play the entertaining beauty. But beware, these little birds are fragile and can be easily frightened.

Lifespan: Canaries typically live for between 9-10 years if well cared for, although in rare cases these little birds can live for 15 years or even longer!

Canaries are a type of pet bird

Hyacinth Macaws

The mighty hyacinth macaw is the largest of all parrots. Not everyone has the space to care for these gentle giants, but those who do can be rewarded with an enduring and deep friendship with these incredibly social and cuddly birds.

Hyacinth macaws love to be handled by their owners and want nothing more than your affection. Their cobalt blue plumage is incredibly eye-catching, and the yellow around their eyes and curved beak gives the appearance of a perpetual smile!

Hyacinth macaws are pricier than most types of pet birds and require a well above average sized space to call their own, but those with the means to care for these beautiful boys can have a lifelong companion, as these parrots are known to live for over 30 years when properly cared for.

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Species Info

Weight: 42 to 51 ounces

Length: 40 inches

Lifespan: Often live 30+ years

Physical Characteristics: Solid blue plumage; yellow patches around eyes and beak; black beak; dark gray feet

Hyacinth Macaws are a type of pet bird


The complete opposite of their titanous cousin the hyacinth macaw, the lovebird is the smallest type of pet bird belonging to the parrot family.

These little birds shouldn’t be passed over, however, as they have all the personality and affection of their larger counterparts. Lovebirds are named for the loving attentive bonds they form with their mates, as well as their owners. Lovebirds do not need to be kept in pairs, as many believe they do, and in fact a single bird is best if you want an animal that’s eagerly bonded to their human flock. With that said, owning a pair of lovebirds can also make for great companionship without as much pressure on owners to provide for all their social needs.

Lovebirds are not the easiest pet birds to care for—while they are easier pets than larger parrots, they are still a step up from other common kinds of pet birds known for being more gentle like doves and parakeets. Lovebirds are known to test boundaries and occasionally try to show dominance through nipping or aggression, so they are perhaps not the best choice for households with young children.

Species Info

Weight: 2 ounces

Length: 5 to 6 inches

Lifespan: Properly cared for lovebirds can easily eclipse lifespans of 20+ years

Physical Characteristics: Mostly green, orange upper body and head, blue lower back and rump, red beak, white eyerings

Lovebirds are a type of pet bird

African Grey Parrots

African grey parrots are a poor choice for first-time bird owners, but many veteran bird keepers have fallen in love with these demanding companions. African grey parrots are believed to be the smartest birds in the world and are capable of learning a huge vocabulary. Some African grey parrot owners report that their birds often seem to speak in context, and are very in tune with their handler’s emotions.

Because of their outsized intelligence, these parrots need somewhere in the vicinity of 5 hours of stimulation every day to keep from falling into boredom or depression. They are easy to train once one is familiar with using positive reinforcement and operant conditioning as training methods, but some learning will be required for inexperienced bird owners, but the attention demanded by these birds makes them a more advanced type of pet bird than most others. Those looking to make a serious commitment to a forever friend can find an intelligent and loving companion in an African grey parrot.

Species Info

Weight: 15 to 18 ounces

Length: 13 inches

Lifespan: Often live 30+ years

Physical Characteristics: Varying shades of gray on the body; with striking red tail feathers

African grey parrots are a type of pet bird

Pionus Parrots

Pionus parrots are most renowned for being affectionate birds that still maintain their own independence. While they’re happy to socialize with their owners, this type of pet bird will be ok spending long hours on their own to amuse themselves with toys or exercise.

They are of medium size and require 3+ hours outside the cage every day to exercise, but nonetheless are low maintenance compared to parrots of similar size and intelligence. Pionus parrots make for great first parrots, especially compared to more demanding macaws.

Because they are laid-back and relatively quiet birds, they are a great type of pet bird for apartment dwellers

Species Info

Weight: 8 to 9 ounces

Length: 11 inches

Lifespan: Often live 30 + years

Physical Characteristics: Blue head and neck; green body; black patches over ears; red on the underside of the tail; black beak with red sides

Pionus parrots are a type of pet bird

Green-Cheeked Conures

The South American green-cheeked conure thrives on spending time socializing with their caretakers. Known to be a little mischievous, these intelligent and playful pranksters bond with their owners through their charming personalities and showmanship.

Compared to other species of conure, this type of pet bird tends to be much quieter, it is rare that they will learn how to talk.

If you’re looking for a very friendly companion who is a little on the quieter side, then a green-cheeked conure might be perfect for you!

Species Info

Weight: 2 to 3 ounces

Length: 10 to 11 inches

Physical Characteristics: Mostly green with gray head and breast, blue-tipped wings and maroon tail. Other colors include yellow, cinnamon and turquoise.

Lifespan: With plenty of love and attention these friendly birds can live as long as 30 years.

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