Can Crows Talk?

Have you ever seen a Crow talk? I mean when we think of a bird that can talk then we automatically think of Parrots or even parakeets

But did you know that parrots or even parakeets are not the only birds that can talk

Yes that’s right, crows can talk too!

Let me explain..

Crows can employ logical reasoning and solve various puzzles. Therefore, they are considered the “smartest birds on the planet”. Besides, crows can not only imitate behaviors but also sounds. And so, like parrots, crows can also orchestrate human-like sounds. 

Okay, so crows can talk 

But could you teach them how to speak?

Let’s find out..

(Make sure to check the end of the article to see the video of a crow talking! It’s pretty awesome!)

Can a Crow Be Taught To Speak?

Certainly, yes.

Though corvids don’t sing much, yet, they are classified as songbirds.

Like parrots, crows are also vocal learners.

And so, they speak by mimicking whatever they hear. 

If your goal is to teach a crow to talk, then you will just have to repeat your words, over and over.

However, training a crow to speak will require a lot of patience. 

Also, bribing the bird with its favorite treats.

Despite training, a crow may still never speak.

It may be because that crow is exceptionally shy.

Or perhaps, the crows from that species don’t speak. 

This is observed among parrots too.

For instance, an African Grey Parrot can speak efficiently, however, love birds do not speak at all.

Regardless, the ability of even the talking crows to produce various sounds may still be limited.

Why?

Well, birds lack lips or teeth to produce sounds.

Therefore, creating bilabial consonants such as ‘P’ and ‘B’, is usually quite difficult. 

Like other songbirds, crows have a fluid-filled cavity below their windpipes called “Syrinx”.

And so, they produce sounds by modifying the shape of their trachea and varying the speed of airflow through it.   

Can Crows Talk Better Than Parrots?

Technically no.

Most behavior ornithologists argue that crows don’t speak as much as parrots, only because they don’t get enough exposure. 

How so? 

You see, birds talk by imitating human speech which mostly happens when they are in captivity.

However, corvids are rarely adopted as household pets.

Since parrots are often caged and given human attention.

Therefore, talking parrots are widespread while talking crows are hard to come by.

That said, even captive crows may not become efficient speakers like most parrots.

Why?

Well, bird brains are typically the size of a nut.

And so, birds make the most compact use of allotted space for neurons.

Now, all songbirds have a section of their brain reserved to produce sounds and melodies called “the song system”.

This song system consists of a shell and an inner core.

However, only parrots have an exclusive extra outer shell.

This outer shell is involved in sharp memories and sound-mimicking abilities. 

But crows lack this outer shell.

Therefore, even if a crow gets similar captivity exposure, it is unlikely to speak as efficient as a parrot.

Now, you may think of questions like:

Can a Crow Say Hello?

It sure can.

In fact, if a crow is trained properly, it can memorize up to 100 words and about 50 complete sentences.

They have been reported to count to 9. 

Again, not all crows can speak. 

However, crows seem to be more logical than parrots, especially when food is involved. 

For instance, Japanese Crows have been reported to throw hard nuts at highway roads to open them with moving automobiles. 

Crows can even make use of tools like hooked straws.

This has been observed in labs where corvids used bent straws to pick their favorite food from a puzzle.

In the wild, crows have been reported to use straws to scoop out insects from a hollow tree. 

So, if a crow is given food whenever it speaks, then it is more than likely to say “Hello” or even “Good-bye”. 

So do crows talk to humans?

We see them everyday flying about and hopping around on the ground

I see them everyday but they never talk to me!

So let’s find out if they actually do..

Do Crows Talk To Humans?

They do, but mostly when they have something to gain.

A crow will try to mimic your speech if you give him a treat every time he copies you.

But that also means that,

The crow may not know what he is saying.

He speaks because he associates it with food benefits.   

So, if a crow caws at you and you caw back.

And then you give him food, that’s just a “ritual” to get food from you.

So that’s not a true conversation in all honesty!

Besides, crows live in a complex family system.

Therefore, they don’t really need to communicate with humans, unless that human proves to be the resource of food. 

Since corvids are rarely adopted as pets.

A crow talking to a human is only observed in some zoo or lab. 

But theoretically, crows can mimic all kinds of human languages.

Can Crows Talk To Each Other?

They sure do!

According to Crow Ornithologist – Loma Pendergraft, crows talk to each other all the time.

He suggests that crow-to-crow communication is the most complex and intricate system. 

You see, crows are the social birds that live as families within the flocks.

These flocks not only forage together but also do communal roosting.

And so, hundreds of thousands of crows get together every night to sleep as a community. 

These roosting spots are periodically changed.

Crows also take turns to keep watch during the night.

These sentinels alert the whole flock if they detect the presence of some threat.

Crows fly in the same flight lines, every day.

They do stop at certain places, probably to exchange information.

Interestingly, the previous brood tends to help their parents during nesting. 

Besides, corvids are the only birds that hold a funeral for their dead.

Such a complex community is only possible with their ability to communicate with each other.

But if you listen to crows, they tend to caw all the time.

So, you may be thinking..

How is a ‘caw’ so meaningful? 

Now, we don’t know how crow-language works.

But crow specialist Kevin McGowan suggests that the same caw with different patterns, pitch, or frequencies can mean a different thing. 

For instance, a caw can mean that a predator is spotted.

A short series of caw can simply mean “Beware I saw a predator around”.

Shrill caws can mean “The predator is coming, hide”. 

And so, crows regularly communicate to:

  1. Alert each other about an approaching predator.
  2. Start a mob against some hawk or owl.
  3. Attract a mate. A crow may even sing as part of the mating ritual.
  4. Distinguish between genders, friends, families, and foes.
  5. Express territorial behavior. Perhaps, just like jays, crows also have an auditory map to locate places. Therefore, the same crow can fly miles and come perch on the same bush. 
  6. Announce the presence of food resources.
  7. Declare the death of a crow.

Apart from all that, crows can remember faces.

In 2015, a study was published when animal scientists donned masks and spread food around Washington state while holding a dead taxidermized crow.

All the crows reacted by producing raucous sounds. 

Later the crows kept scolding all the people wearing masks, even though they were not holding any dead crows and were not even in the same area.

This shows how complex and fast the crow communication can be.

Related article about crows that you may be interested in – Are crows afraid of owls?

Wrapping Up – Do Crows Talk?

Crows are vocal learners.

And so, they can learn to speak by hearing different words.

However, compared to parrots, their ability to talk is limited.

That said, crows in captivity often learn to say “Hello”.

It’s because saying hello tends to get the treats.

Crows can also talk to humans but may not know what they are saying.

Crow-to-crow communication is one of the most intricate animal communication systems. 

Since we are talking about crows you may be interested in my article – Do hawks eat crows?

Another article you may be interested in is – How do parrots talk without lips?

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