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Smartest Birds In The World – 10 Birds That Steal The Show

Smartest birds in the world

Birds can be very smart animals. I’ve seen ravens do acrobatic moves in flight, just for fun! Jays imitate other birds, and a few birds even use tools!

A lot of birds are smart but some species are always going to be smarter than others. Which are the smartest birds? How do they demonstrate their intelligence?

See this article to learn about some of the smartest birds and where you can see them.


What Are The Smartest Birds?

#10 Western ScrubJays

Western Scrub Jay

Western Scrub-Jays are common in scrubby habitats and oak forests in the western USA and Mexico. They are usually separated into three different species. One lives on Santa Cruz Island, California, another on mainland California, and a third occurs around the Rocky Mountains.

No matter where these jays live, all show a high degree of intelligence.

Like other jays, these social birds communicate with each other about predators and food. However, when they are hiding their own food, they do it in secret!

Western Scrub-Jays routinely store seeds and other bits of food for later use. Amazingly, even though they hide thousands of seeds, they remember where they hid them.

Related: What kinds of seeds do birds eat?

When choosing food for storage, jays carefully inspect it and if the food won’t last long, they eat it shortly after. To hide durable seeds and nuts, a jay waits until the other jays aren’t watching. If not, they will steal its food!


#9 Blue Jay

Blue Jay

In the eastern USA and Canada, Blue Jays are common, familiar birds. This beautiful species is also one of the smartest birds on the block!

Thanks to their intelligence, Blue Jays thrive in all sorts of forest and woodland habitats as well as parks and many urban areas.

These social birds can be loud but they have a complex set of vocalizations. In particular, they like to imitate other birds, especially the Red-shouldered Hawk. Blue Jays might mimic this raptor to let other jays know about predators, or they might alarm other birds so they can steal their food!

Blue Jays are also known for hiding acorns and other seeds. They can store thousands for later use but these birds don’t just hide any old acorn. They carefully pick ones that will last and then recall where they hid them.

Studies have also shown that this species can even make basic tools!


#8 Woodpecker Finch

The Woodpecker Finch is a small bird restricted to the Galapagos Islands. In that famous archipelago, it is common and occurs on several of the larger islands and uses both dry and humid habitats at all elevations.

True to its name, the Woodpecker Finch pecks on branches but not nearly as much as a true woodpecker. It also lacks the long tongue that woodpeckers use to extract grubs and other food items.

Although this little bird couldn’t evolve a long, specialized tongue, it ended up having another solution.

A better name for this bird might be “Tool-making Finch” because that’s exactly what it does! Woodpecker Finches use cactus spines and twigs to pick bugs out of crevices in tree bark! They can pick up these tools from a tree or the ground but usually work on them a bit to shape them for better use.

This unique species might also watch and learn from other Woodpecker Finches!


#7 Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrikes are smart-looking songbirds around the same size as a cardinal. However, don’t let their slick looks fool you, these birds are serious predators!

The Loggerhead Shrike hunts insects, mice, small reptiles, and small birds in grasslands and other open habitats. It can even catch animals as large as itself!

It uses its intelligence to watch for an unwary bug or animal. When it sees its chance, the shrike quickly flies in, grabs the prey, and uses its strong sharp beak to break the animal’s neck.

It might eat all of its prey but if not, the shrike still has a trick up its sleeve.

Instead of leaving a half-eaten animal on the ground, the Loggerhead Shrike impales the remains on a thorn or barbed wire fence. That way, it has its own personal, open air meat locker!

Although locally common in some areas, sadly, Loggerheads Shrikes are declining in many parts of their range.


#6 Clark’s Nutcracker

clarks nutcracker

The Clark’s Nutcracker is a smart and common bird that lives in the mountains of the western USA and Canada. One isolated population also occurs on top of a mountain in eastern Mexico.

This bird is related to jays but unlike those social birds, Clark’s Nutcrackers prefer to go solo. Even so, they are still highly intelligent and have smart adaptations to thrive in their cold, montane home.

Like many other members of their family, this species has impressive vocal abilities. It makes certain calls to warn about predators, and can mimic various sounds. Clark’s Nutcrackers can even imitate the sound of a tapping woodpecker. They probably do this to fool and keep woodpeckers out of their territory.

However, this species is best known for its amazing memory. Clark’s Nutcrackers hide and store many thousand pine seeds each year. They remember where their food is hidden and can even find it in deep snow!


#5 Red-billed Chough

This distinctive bird lives in areas with rocky, coastal cliffs and mountains next to pasture and grasslands. We find the Red-billed Chough in parts of Europe, North Africa, Ethiopia, and in Asia.

In Mongolia and some other places, this species is a common bird. However, in Europe it tends to be local and rather uncommon.

Red-billed Choughs are related to crows and like them, are very social, intelligent birds. This species shows its intelligence with complex social interactions and acrobatic flight. Watch Red-billed Choughs flying and it won’t be long before you see them gliding and playing in windy updrafts!

This species also demonstrates intelligence when in searches for bugs and other types of food. The birds use their long red beaks like tools to turn over stones and dig in the ground. They can also perch on the backs of sheep and other grazing animals to pick parasites off of them!


#4 Rook

Rooks are a crow species that occurs in large parts of Europe and Asia. In most places, these smart birds are common in farmlands, open areas near woodlands, and urban parks.

No matter where we see Rooks, they typically occur in large flocks. These social birds are also incredibly smart, even for a crow!

Studies have shown that Rooks can solve complex puzzles by using objects and working together. They are also very adept at figuring out how to obtain food. Many a feeder has been taken apart by Rooks to get at the seeds inside!

Hanging food on a string won’t stop Rooks either. This smart crow uses its feet to pull the string up until it can snatch the food!

Rooks also chase other birds to steal their food and are capable of much more. To study them, the British Trust for Ornithology has requested that people tell them about Rook behavior in their gardens.


#3 Jackdaw

The Jackdaw is a small, common crow species of Europe, parts of North Africa, and Asia east to Mongolia. These little crows live in areas with farmland, urban areas with parks, and other places with scattered trees.

Jackdaws are very social birds that can form winter roosts numbering in the thousands. They also have complex social behaviors where certain birds are more dominant than others! They establish this hierarchy when they are young and may give food to other Jackdaws to boost their status.

Like most crows and jays, when Jackdaws see a predator, they give a certain alarm call that alerts other Jackdaws. They then gather to harass the hawk or other predator until it goes away.

The Jackdaw also demonstrates its intelligence by stealing odd items from people! This behavior might be related to its tendency for curiosity. Compared to other crows, Jackdaws spend more time turning over stones to look for insects.


#2 Ravens

Common Raven

The intelligence shown by Ravens has been noted by cultures throughout the world for thousands of years. In Scandinavia, they were even seen as messengers from their deity, “Odin”!

Different raven species occur in various regions but the best known is the Common Raven. This big crow species occurs in Alaska, Canada, the western USA, Mexico, and parts of the northern and eastern USA.

We also find them in many parts of Europe, North Africa, and Asia. Common Ravens are fairly common species in most of their range and can live in Arctic tundra, boreal forest, mountains, grasslands, woodlands, and other habitats.

This special bird demonstrates its intelligence in a number of ways. They can easily learn to mimic speech, and may also learn to forage by playing with each other!

These playtimes can involve chasing each other, playing with sticks, and even “sledding” down snow banks on their bellies!


#1 Crows

American Crow

Crows are incredibly smart birds. Various species live in different regions, but all are highly intelligent.

In North America, the American Crow is common in farmlands, urban areas, and other habitats in southern Alaska, much of Canada, and in most of the USA. However, it doesn’t usually occur in hot, arid habitats.

One of the main reasons American Crows and most other crow species are so common is because they are very smart. These birds are very perceptive of their surroundings and can even recognize people who have treated them bad!

They also have complex social behaviors, high levels of communication with each other, and can even mimic human speech. Like people, they also like to play with each other, and have even played tricks on scientists who study them!

All crows are smart, but the New Caledonian Crow could be the smartest. This bird makes tools out of branches and other objects to reach its food!


Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the most intelligent bird?

The most intelligent bird might be the New Caledonian Crow. This crow species makes tools and demonstrates other aspects of high intelligence.

Which bird has the highest IQ?

The bird with the highest IQ could be the African Gray Parrot, Kea, macaw species, the Common Raven, or the New Caledonian Crow. All of these species show high levels of intelligence but they haven’t been given comparable IQ tests.

Who is smarter, crow or raven?

Crows and ravens are equally smart. However, the New Caledonian Crow might be smarter than all of them.

What is the smartest pet bird?

The smartest pet bird is the African Gray Parrot. However, cockatoos, macaws, and other parrots are also very smart birds.

About the Author

Patrick O'Donnell

Patrick O'Donnell has been focused on all things avian since the age of 7. Since then, he has helped with ornithological field work in the USA and Peru, and has guided many birding tours, especially in Costa Rica. He develops birding apps for BirdingFieldGuides and loves to write about birds, especially in his adopted country of Costa Rica.

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