9 Smartest Birds in the World

Written by Heather Hall
Updated: September 13, 2022
Image Credit Pascale Gueret/Shutterstock.com
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Key Points:

  • Birds are much smarter than humans once gave them credit for. Many birds use tools, outsmart other animals, recognize faces, solve puzzles, plan for the future, show empathy, and recognize abstract concepts.
  • The Crow is the smartest bird on our list. If you ever thought that a flock of crows was talking about you, you were probably correct.
  • Many birds have sophisticated language, even going so far as to tell lies.

You can tell a lot about the intelligence of a bird by watching its behavior. Some birds look for food, build their nests and go about their daily tasks in the same way throughout their lives. Other birds seem a bit more inquisitive. Some of the birds on this list are great at using tools to accomplish a purpose while others have a talent for outsmarting their feathered friends. There is even a bird that can recognize human faces. Read on to learn about the unique behaviors that landed these nine fliers on the world’s smartest bird list.

#9: Western Scrub Jay — Fooling the Competition

A Western scrub jay will sometimes pretend to hide its food in a certain spot and then hide it elsewhere.

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In the autumn, the Western scrub jay looks for food it can store to eat during the winter months. While a lot of birds store food, the Western scrub jay adds a twist to the process.

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These birds know their supply of stored food may be stolen by other birds or even squirrels. So, as a Western scrub jay hides its food it keeps a close watch on its surroundings. If this jay thinks a bird is watching, it will hide the food in another place. It may even change the location of the food several times to fool other birds.

If that isn’t enough to earn it a place on the smartest bird list, Western scrub jays go a step further. Scientists have observed this bird pretending to hide food in a particular place. But, in reality, they take the food to another location for safe storage.

#8: Magpie — Passing the Test

Magpies are able to recognize themselves in a mirror while other birds cannot.

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Magpies are best known for their warbling, chirping, whistling, and chattering. These birds are also recognized for their intelligence. Scientists put them to a challenging test they passed with flying colors.

First, scientists placed a small sticker on the magpie’s body. Then, they put the bird in front of a mirror. The magpie looked into the mirror and immediately tried to remove the sticker from its feathers. This bird saw its reflection and knew the sticker didn’t belong there. Other types of birds simply tapped on the mirror thinking it was another bird.

#7: Clark’s Nutcracker — Winning the Memory Game

The Clark’s nutcracker stores as many as 30,000 pine seeds in one season.

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The Clark’s nutcracker lives in the mountains in the western part of the United States. They have soft gray feathers on their head and back along with black tail feathers. Though it lives up in the mountains, this bird’s intelligence is well-known. In short, this feathered creature has a great memory.

Pine seeds are the main diet of the Clark’s nutcracker. These tiny birds expend a lot of effort during the summer months storing pine seeds, so they have sustenance throughout the winter months. They store as many as 30,000 pine seeds during one summer season. However, they don’t store all of the seeds in one location. Instead, they store only three or four seeds in a single place. This means the Clark’s nutcracker must remember thousands of hiding places. Which leads to the question: How does this bird find the buried seeds after the snow falls? Scientists have concluded that it uses tree stumps, fence posts, and other landmarks to help it remember where the seeds are buried. No wonder it made the cut for being one of the smartest birds in the world.

#6: Raven — It’s Smart to Cooperate

Ravens pair together to make the hunting process more efficient.

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Ravens are well known for their solid black feathers and black eyes. There have been many famous stories, songs, myths, and poems written about this famous bird. What you may not know is these birds are considered some of the smartest birds in the world.

Instead of hunting for prey on their own, one raven pairs up with another to make the process more efficient. When a pair of ravens spot a nest of baby birds, one of them flies near the mother and creates lots of noise to lure her out of the area. After she moves off, the other raven moves in to grab one of the chicks. Pairs of ravens do this several times, so they are both fed.

Another reason why this bird is on the smartest birds in the world list has to do with mastering a puzzling challenge. Ravens can complete various challenges set up by scientists. One challenge displayed a raven’s ability to push a stone out of a box with the help of a stick grasped in its beak. Once the bird retrieved the stone, put it into a tube to trigger the release of a piece of food. Ravens are capable of figuring out the steps involved in completing a challenge!

#5: Jackdaw — Brainpower in Action

Jackdaws are well-known for taking shiny objects.

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A jackdaw gets its interesting name from its call. It makes a noise that sounds like ‘tchack.’ This curious-minded bird has a place on the smartest birds in the world list for a few reasons.

For one, it’s notorious for taking shiny things like coins and jewelry. These birds see a sparkling object and can’t resist it! Sometimes they take shiny items with a specific purpose in mind. Jackdaws sometimes remove the shiny caps from bottles of milk sitting on the porches and doorsteps of homes. But taking the cap is not enough. The jackdaw proceeds to drink the milk out of the bottle!

Jackdaws build nests using lots of different materials including animal hair. Scientists have seen jackdaws following herds of deer so they can land on the backs of these mammals. The birds pluck hairs from deer to use for their nests. These birds know how to put their brains to work for their benefit!

#4: Red-Billed Chough — The Right Tools for the Job

The red-billed chough use tools to break open a shell.

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Chough is kind of a funny name for a bird. It’s easy to pronounce this bird’s name if you say it like you’re saying the word ‘chuff.’ These birds have black plumage similar to other birds on this list. But, they also have a bright red beak and legs.

Choughs are considered very smart birds because of their ability to use an object as a tool to break open a shell. As an example, these birds sometimes eat mollusks. They can use the broken shell of one mollusk to crack open the shell of another. Resourceful!

#3: Rook — A Problem Solver

The rook has great problem-solving abilities.

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Rooks are black with a white face and a pointy black beak. The rook is on the most intelligent bird list because of its ability to solve simple problems.

One notable experiment done with a rook involves a bottle half-filled with water. A small worm is floating on the surface of the water in the bottle. Of course, the rook sees the worm and wants to eat it. Though it knows to stick its beak into the bottle, the worm is out of reach due to the low water level. A rook will drop stones into the bottle to raise the water level to reach the worm. Problem solved!

#2: Woodpecker Finch — A Tool for Every Task

Because their beaks are so small, woodpecker finches use twigs and sticks as tools to dig for dinner.

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When you think of a woodpecker, you are likely to envision a large bird with a sharp beak made for tapping through tree trunks. Though this bird is a woodpecker, it’s small with a tiny beak like a finch.

In their habitat on the Galapagos Islands, they nourish themselves on a diet of worms and grubs they find inside trees. Unfortunately, this bird’s short beak isn’t effective at digging grubs out of the trunk or branch of a tree. This is where the woodpecker finch puts its brain to work!

These birds use twigs, sticks, and even cactus spines as tools to retrieve grubs from inside a tree. Dinner is served!

#1: Crow — Putting Two and Two Together

Crows are so intelligent that they can remember human facial features.

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No smartest bird list is complete without the crow! Crows are considered the smartest of all birds for several reasons. Furthermore, it’s the variety of things they can do that puts them over the top.

In Japan, crows have been seen dropping nuts into a busy roadway. Of course, the nuts were crushed beneath the tires of passing vehicles. The crows sit on a powerline above the street waiting for traffic to slow down. When it does, they fly down to eat the nut pieces. This is cause-and-effect thinking.

In addition, crows can create tools out of leaves, twigs, and sticks to access insects from the ground or a tree. Last but not least, crows can remember the facial features of humans.

Click HERE to learn about the 10 smartest animals in the world!

Here is a Summary of the 9 Smartest Birds in the World:

BIRD NAMERANK
Crow#1
Woodpecker Finch#2
Rook#3
Red-billed Chough#4
Jackdaw#5
Raven#6
Clarks Nutcracker#7
Magpie#8
Western Scrubjay#9
Here is a Summary of the Worlds Smartest Birds

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About the Author

I am a freelance writer with 22 years of experience. I live in the Pacific Northwest and am surrounded by nature. When I go for my daily runs I often see herds of elk, deer, and bald eagles. I am owned by two dogs who take me on hikes in the mountains where we see coyotes, black bears, and wild turkeys.

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