When It Comes to Brains, Size Doesn’t Matter

Crows, ravens, and other corvids are sometimes called feathered apes. Like primates, these birds form social groups, use tools, solve puzzles, recognize faces, and enjoy a good joke (especially if it’s at the expense of cats). Now a group of researchers has shown in a series of tests that corvids exhibit the same levels of self-control that chimps do when faced with a task that requires them to forgo a quick reward in favor of a bigger one that comes later.

The researchers published a fascinating description of their work in Royal Society Open Science, and their paper challenges a long-held belief that both absolute and relative brain volume correlate with intelligence. No longer will humans and our ape cohorts be able to claim that we’re smart just because our brains are big. Instead, say the researchers, it’s more likely that intelligence stems from neural complexity, whether that’s numbers of neurons or connections between them.

Source: When it comes to brains, size doesn’t matter


As someone who owns a small parrot (a Green Cheek Conure), I can attest to how remarkably true this is. Despite ~350 million years of evolution separating us from a common ancestor, our parrot Eddie, at only a year old, can communicate verbally with a number of phrases (not just mimic, but communicate – he uses phrases like “Hi there”, “good boy”, and “can I have a kiss” contextually), he recognizes our emotions, learns tricks quickly and solves tasks (though not to the same extent as a raven or African Grey), recognizes and remembers faces, and more. All this from a bird that weighs 70 grams and has a head less than 1″ in diameter.

With his intelligence, verbal communication, excellent colour vision, and social bonding, I feel like Eddie and I see the world in a much more similar way than a dog or a cat does to a human. Birds are pretty cool.

Q: Why Don’t We Have Crows as Pets?

They’re illegal to keep as pets in America because they’re recognized as protected “migratory birds”. Which is ridiculous, because they’re so prolific, many consider them pests. But end result, you can’t hunt them or keep them as pets. Sadly.

They also are intelligent and assertive and don’t like being kept in small places.