Crows can count back numbers through vocalisations (infographic)

Crows can recognise and count back numbers through their vocalisations like 3-year-old kids
Crows can recognise and count back numbers through their vocalisations like 3-year-old kids. Image: MikeB
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This test by Dr Diana Liao confirms yet again that the crow is one of nature’s smartest creatures. The crow can look at a number such as the numeral 4 and confirm to researchers that they recognise the number by making their typical vocalisation, the caw, four times. They were imperfect however which indicated that the test can be a challenge for them.

  • For the number 1 they responded with one caw 98 percent of the time
  • For the number 2 it was 63 percent of the time
  • For the number 3 is was 52 percent of the time and
  • for the number 4 they got it right 40 per cent of the time.

Kids count back in the same way. When a child is asked to count three objects they might say, ‘one, one, one’.

In 2002 a New Caledonian crow called Betty was the first animal ever seen to created a crooked tool by bending a wire.

Dr Liao believes that her crow test is the first time that an animal has demonstrated a ‘sophisticated combination of numerical abilities and vocal control’.

Relevance to domestic cats and dogs? Intelligence. Humans tend to forget that animals are often smarter than they give them credit for. Their intelligence is different but we should not underestimate it. Work with it to help create a great bond and thereby improve the human-to-cat relationship.

This kind of research may also help to improve animal welfare generally. The more we understand about animals the more we understand that they are very sentient and smart. Never harm them as you’ll be causing pain and distress. All people should feel emotional distress if and when they cause pain in animals. If they don’t there is something wrong with them.


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