Crows Can Count Out Loud: A New Study Reveals - Science Label

Crows Can Count Out Loud: A New Study Reveals


In a groundbreaking study, researchers have discovered that crows possess the remarkable ability to count out loud, a cognitive skill previously thought to be exclusive to humans. This revelation not only highlights the intelligence of these birds but also opens up new avenues for understanding animal cognition. The study was conducted by scientists at the University of Tübingen, who trained carrion crows to produce specific numbers of vocalizations in response to visual and auditory cues (

Study Findings

The researchers found that carrion crows (Corvus corone) could produce a deliberate number of caws corresponding to stimuli they were shown. The crows were able to count up to four, matching their caws to the number of objects or sounds presented to them. This ability to produce a specific number of vocalizations demonstrates that crows can use an "approximate number system," a non-symbolic number estimation system shared by humans and animals (

In the study, the crows were trained over 160 sessions, learning to associate visual cues like Arabic numerals and auditory cues such as instrument sounds with specific numbers of caws. The birds were rewarded with treats for correct responses, reinforcing their ability to count out loud. Even when mistakes were made, they were often between numbers that were close together, indicating a sophisticated level of numerical understanding similar to that of human toddlers (

Implications for Animal Cognition

This discovery challenges the long-held belief that humans are unique in their ability to understand and use numbers. Previous studies have shown that various animals possess an inherent numerical sense, but the ability to count out loud and produce deliberate vocalizations is a significant leap forward. It suggests that crows have a level of numerical cognition that mirrors early human development, where vocalizations precede the understanding of cardinal numbers (

The study also supports the idea that animals can plan and control their vocalizations, rather than reacting purely based on stimuli. This ability to produce specific numbers of sounds deliberately points to a higher level of cognitive function and communication capability in crows than previously understood.

Biological Background on Crows

Crows are part of the Corvidae family, which includes ravens, magpies, and jays. Known for their intelligence and problem-solving abilities, crows have demonstrated complex behaviors such as tool use, facial recognition, and social learning. These birds are highly adaptable and thrive in a variety of environments, from rural areas to urban settings (

Crows have a diverse diet that includes insects, small animals, seeds, and human food waste, making them resilient and opportunistic feeders. Their social structures are equally complex, with strong family bonds and communal roosting behaviors. This social complexity likely contributes to their advanced cognitive abilities, as they must navigate intricate social interactions and environmental challenges.

Broader Implications

The ability of crows to count out loud has significant implications for our understanding of animal intelligence and the evolution of numerical cognition. It suggests that the cognitive processes underlying numerical abilities may be more widespread in the animal kingdom than previously thought. This finding could lead to further research into the cognitive abilities of other bird species and animals, shedding light on the evolutionary pathways that have led to advanced cognitive functions in humans and animals alike.

Additionally, this discovery emphasizes the need to reconsider the cognitive capabilities of animals and the ethical considerations surrounding their treatment. As we continue to uncover the depths of animal intelligence, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that our interactions with wildlife are informed by respect and understanding of their cognitive capacities.


The revelation that crows can count out loud is a testament to the remarkable intelligence of these birds. This study not only challenges our understanding of animal cognition but also highlights the complex and sophisticated nature of crow behavior. As we continue to explore the cognitive abilities of animals, findings like these remind us of the rich and diverse forms of intelligence that exist in the natural world.

For more detailed information, you can visit LiveScience and ICWDM.

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