Scientists Have Revealed This Incredibly Human-Like Trait In Crows

<span class="copyright">Daniel Alberto Garcia Martinez / 500px via Getty Images</span>
Daniel Alberto Garcia Martinez / 500px via Getty Images

If you weren’t aware, crows are some of the most intelligent creatures in the animal kingdom.

Not only can crows hold a grudge against humans, they can also bring us gifts, and even hold funerals when one of their flock dies.

This year, however, scientists have learned that these clever little corvids can also count out loud!

Yes, really.

How crows count out loud

A team of researchers at the University of Tübingen in Germany found that crows can ‘count’ out loud by producing a specific and deliberate number of caws in response to visual and auditory clues.

Science Daily said: “While other animals such as honeybees have shown an ability to understand numbers, this specific manifestation of numeric literacy has not yet been observed in any other non-human species.”

Unbelievably exciting.

In the paper, neuroscientist and lead researcher Diana Liao said: “Producing a specific number of vocalisations with purpose requires a sophisticated combination of numerical abilities and vocal control.

“Whether this capacity exists in animals other than humans is yet unknown. We show that crows can flexibly produce variable numbers of one to four vocalisations in response to arbitrary cues associated with numerical values.”

How the crows counted

Counting out loud is a separate skill to understanding numbers. It involves vocalising words, and communicating them to another. It’s one of the early skills that we teach children.

The researchers conducted their study on three crows which were trained to produce a variable number of vocalisations, between one and four, upon being shown an arbitrary symbol or audio cue.

Once they had produced the requisite number of caws, the crows had to then peck a target to signify that they were done.

All three crows, the researchers found, were able to produce the correct number of caws in response to the cues, with the occasional error mostly presenting as one caw too many or too few.

The researchers said: “Our results demonstrate that crows can flexibly and deliberately produce an instructed number of vocalisations by using the ‘approximate number system’, a non-symbolic number estimation system shared by humans and animals.”

Clever little corvids indeed!