A crow is supposedly as smart as a 7-year-old. Here’s how scientists figured that—and other facts—out.
December 09, 2015
Forget the old saying: Birds are pretty bright. They’re capable of navigating thousands of miles during biannual migrations, using tools to better access their food, and even counting from left to right. The basic definition of intelligence is the ability to solve novel problems, says Damian Scarf, a psychology professor at the University of Otago in New Zealand. And at least some birds have the knack—heck, crows’ reasoning skills might even be on par with those of a 7-year-old child.
Unlike kids, however, birds can’t be convinced to sit down and take IQ tests. So how do researchers suss out avian smarts? They have a battery of bird-specific tests that assess the baseline braininess of species as a whole, and show the range of avian intelligence between species and individuals (just like humans, some individual birds are brighter than others).
Here is a sampling of standardized tests and creative assessments that scientists have used to gauge bird intelligence.