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The Intelligence Of Crows – The Truth Behind An Old Fable

In Aesop’s fables there is one story about a crow that was looking for water. But all he found was a container near the well but there was very little water and he couldn’t reach the bottom of the container to drink it. But he was a smart crow and so he kept dropping stones into the container till the water level rose and he was able to quench his thirst.

While for many years this little fable was dismissed as mere children’s fiction, recent research has however shown that crows really are that smart. In fact they are as intelligent as a seven year old human child.

Researchers conducted a study on six wild New Caledonian crows and made them all undergo a series of problems which tested whether or not they understood the concept of causality. Most of these tests involved displacing water using methods that were all offshoots of the crow dropping stones into the water in Aesop’s fable.

Through the course of the tests, the crows were able to figure out that they could reach food left to float in tubes full of water by putting heavy things into the tubes. They were able to differentiate between objects which were heavy enough to sink to the bottom and those that would float, and between objects that were completely solid and those which were hollowed out inside.


The crows could even pick a tube with a higher level of water as opposed to one with a lower level, and one containing water as opposed to one containing mud.

However, the crows were unable to complete tests that necessarily involved knowledge of concepts such as the width of the tubes and on bringing up the water level in a horseshoe shaped tube.

But even their intelligence and their knowledge on how to displace water were equal to that of a seven year old human child. They only tests they were unable to complete involved using methods that did not fit into the usual norms of cause and effect. The tests they did complete clearly showed that they did know of causality.

These crows were named after their habitat in the Pacific Islands and they are incredibly intelligent and innovative. Besides primates, they are the only other species who have learned how to make tools. They use sticks and hook shaped objects to dig out insects.


In a study created by Dr. Alex Taylor from Auckland University, a wild crow had to learn how to use different objects over a period of three months in which it was held captive.

The crow worked out how to finish a puzzle with eight stages in just under three minutes in order to get to a food rewards. It was then set free into the wild. This shows that crows are also able to solve problems.

To know more about these intelligent birds, check out the video below:



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