According to a New Study, Crows Can Count Out Loud

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic
Puffin's Pictures/Shutterstock

It’s no secret that crows are very intelligent creatures, and are capable of some truly stunning feats. However, a new study sheds light on a previously unknown skill of theirs – one that makes them truly unique in the world of animals. According to a team of scientists, crows can count out loud, quite similarly to human toddlers – and are the only other animal except humans to do so.

This study is titled “Crows 'Count' the Number of Self-Generated Vocalizations" and was released on May 23rd, 2024 in the popular journal Science. The study found that crows are capable of producing a certain number of “caws” in response to auditory or visual stimuli. This means that they were able to count out loud between one and four. Why is that so important, though?

"Producing a specific number of vocalizations with purpose requires a sophisticated combination of numerical abilities and vocal control," the researchers explained. "Our results demonstrate that crows can flexibly and deliberately produce an instructed number of vocalizations by using the 'approximate number system', a non-symbolic number estimation system shared by humans and animals."

During the course of the experiment, the research team presented three crows with random auditory and visual stimuli. These included sounds from various instruments and Arabic numbers.


"Through trial and error, the birds learned that each cue corresponded to a set number of caws between one and four," the team members wrote. "After crowing the vocalizations out (cawing four times for a sound or symbol associated with four caws, for example), the birds were trained to peck the screen displaying them to signal they had finished."

After the training was done, the crows – much to everyone’s surprise – gave correct answers when asked to say “the proper number of caws”. Their counting skills were quickly compared to those of toddlers. 

"This competency in crows also mirrors toddlers' enumeration skills before they learn to understand cardinal number words and may therefore constitute an evolutionary precursor of true counting where numbers are part of a combinatorial symbol system," the team shared.

This goes beyond everything that was known about crows thus far. It just goes to show that crows are much more than regular birds in their behavior and abilities. And they might be much smarter than we previously realized – and we already thought they were exceptionally intelligent to begin with.

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

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