What’s this post about?
Crows and ravens are both members of Corvidae, a family of oscine passerine birds that are known to be extremely intelligent because of their unusual behavior and traits that make them stand out from other birds.
These large-sized birds are generally found in multiple varying shades of black with long legs and large wings. Their tails are long that splay out when they are in flight. They can be seen mostly in urban and rural settlements since they do pretty well around human settlements.
Crows and ravens can both mimic human speech in the same way as parrots do. However, it is rare since these birds don’t usually come in close contact with humans, but they’re good with how good they are at speaking in a similar fashion that humans do.
Are ravens capable of speech?
Ravens are members of the corvid family and are very much capable of speech. This is because they have a double-layered song system in their brain, which may have been the result of the song nuclei duplication eons ago.
Ravens have a pretty mixed image, with several enjoying their gothic and pagan connections and others fearing them due to scary fiction novels and movies depicting them as evil beings. Whatever it may be, one thing is for certain— these birds sure know how to use their brains!
Ravens can mimic just about anything, from human speech to imitating random sounds in their surroundings. It doesn’t stop at bird sounds; they can mimic car horns, doors slamming, or any other random sound that they can pick on.
Although it’s hard to believe that ravens are one of the most intelligent birds out there since they’ve been viewed as a common bird with nothing to offer but a pea-sized brain, but newer researches and studies have proven these claims otherwise.
Ravens can learn to talk better than parrots when they're in captivity.
Ravens are the smartest birds out there, and their intelligence allows them to mimic other sounds. Ravens even outsmart kids at times; it is observed that they’re great at solving puzzles and can easily rival a chimpanzee when put through a series of social tests.
Ravens have a deep, husky voice that makes them sound like a 90-year-old robotic man when they try and mimic human speech. This is incredibly fascinating since both bird keepers and scientists have long overlooked these birds.
Check out this video of a raven talking!
In this video, a raven is seen mimicking the trainer who first asks the bird to repeat after her, and when it does, she gives him a treat. This is called positive reinforcement, which encourages the bird to produce the sounds trainer asks it to in order to get a treat.
Human speech isn't the only thing they imitate. They can imitate car alarms, thuds, and sounds of other birds as well.
If this news excites you as a bird enthusiast, you must know that ravens can learn different bird sounds and maintain extensive vocabulary.
Here’s another video of a raven happily chatting away with the owner.
Look at how the raven copies the owner; isn’t it fascinating?
Can Crows say hello?
When crows are around humans a lot, like at the zoo or maybe at a wildlife park, they can be heard saying hello! This happens because they’re around humans a lot and pick up on certain words, which they repeat when they feel like it.
DID YOU KNOW?
Crows are great problem solvers and can use essential tools to access food that is out of reach.
But this doesn’t necessarily mean that they understand what they’re saying. Crows use their syrinx, just like parrots, to produce sounds and mimic human speech. A syrinx is a vocal organ in birds or commonly known as a ‘voice box,’ which helps them mimic other beings.
Crows are less likely to speak like parrots because they do not have the ability to use their tongues the way parrots can, hindering their ability to formulate proper sentences.
They’re less chatty than parrots since they are not around humans a lot. Still, if you manage to raise or befriend a crow, don’t be shocked if the crow makes various sounds that sound similar to your speech.
You’ll be surprised to learn that this crow was spotted in Yorkshire asking by-passers, ‘you alright, love?’
Here’s the video:
Interesting, isn’t it? Although it’s pretty rare to see a crow mimicking human speech, this video shows that crows can formulate sentences and mimic humans just the way parrots do.
How do crows and ravens make human-like sounds?
Ravens’ and crows’ ability to mimic human-like sounds comes mainly from a unique vocal organ that they have in their body known as the syrinx, which enables them to mimic sounds without actually understanding or registering them.
This means that they don’t quite understand what’s being said to them, but they take some words and phrases as cues to do something they’re being asked to do. This can only be done through training or raising them in captivity.
Their intelligence surpasses other birds on most levels; they pick on words faster than other bird species. But since they aren’t around people as much, they do not speak or express themselves in that manner. There are several reasons why they can mimic and other birds can’t.
Given that their head is smaller than the rest of their body, they’ve been thought of as pea-sized brain birds. But, after being overlooked for years, scientists and researchers have now started to take a keen interest in how and why crows and ravens are so intelligent.
Ravens are great at solving puzzles and understanding complex tools that may help them access a piece of food.
But this isn’t true anymore as newer studies continue to negate these claims by putting these birds through several experiments to test their brains, and it’s safe to say that these birds didn’t disappoint. They’re capable of recognizing different patterns and using various tools.
This is one of the reasons why they pick up on different sounds and mimic them, thanks to their great memory and a functioning syrinx.
Unlike humans, birds use their syrinx to mimic sounds that they memorize from their surroundings. Their tongues do not play a role in helping them form sounds. However, tongues move around in their mouth to create certain frequencies to make human-like vowels.
Syrinx is basically what a bird uses to make different sounds, and it is a bird’s version of a voice box. Apart from making other bird noises, crows and ravens often use their syrinx for mimicry purposes, just as parrots do.
Have a look at this hidden camera footage of a raven chatting to itself in its aviary:
The video shows a black raven in its comfortable space practicing and playing around with words that it has memorized. The owner decided to record it for her viewers to see how ravens can memorize and mimic sounds.
The clusters of neurons in crows’ and raven’s brains form song nuclei, which is why these birds can formulate words and sometimes even full sentences, unlike many other birds. A recent study showed that birds that can mimic have something that other birds do not.
The Shell Around the Nuclei Cluster
Some of these birds have an extra layer or a shell around their nuclei which determines the kind of sounds a bird makes; in birds that mimic and form sentences, there is a layer present around each nucleus.
The functionality of these layers and shells is yet unknown, but the research conducted so far proves that birds that do possess these shells link with each other and make connections that are different from the connections formed in the brain’s core.
Birds that don’t possess these shells have mushy nuclei with no layer present on the outside.
Smaller Nuclei Cores
Ravens and crows have smaller cores present inside these shells, which means a more extensive area exists between the core and the extra layer. However, this is just an observation and has not yet been explored thoroughly.
Are Crows and Ravens The Only Birds Capable of Talking Like Parrots?
Ravens and crows are not the only corvids capable of mimicking human sounds. Because of the presence of syrinx, other birds can too mimic certain sounds and even human speech. It’s just that it is very unusual since those birds do not live in close proximity to humans.
Many birds out in the wild mimic sounds and certain words like how parrots and Corvids do. Some common examples are
- Common Hill Myna
- Monk Parakeet
- Blue Fronted Amazon
- Indian Ringneck
If you want to see for yourself what crows and ravens sound like up close, try investing in things that they like so that they visit your backyard more often.
You must invest in suitable feed, set a routine to feed them daily, invest in a birdbath, and finally a good decoy.
Decoy crows are an excellent trick to invite real crows to your yard. Don’t know where to find a decoy from?
Explore the Guguluza Decoy Crow.
This decoy can be hung on the tree or can be placed firmly on the ground.
To sum it up, ravens and crows both mimic humans and make sounds like parrots. The thought that these birds are intelligent creatures capable of mimicking humans and other sounds is remarkable. Bird lovers and the general public alike are fascinated by these bird’s cleverness and intelligence.
These birds have a distinct brain structure and memory, which allows them to mimic human speech with a certain degree of control which most non-talkative birds do not have.
Ravens and crows, at times, when trained in captivity, can talk better than some parrots. If you want to know more about ravens and crows, read this post to learn about their size comparison.
Are you searching for ravens and crows size comparison? Keep reading this post to find out more.
David A. Swanson
Bird Watching USA
My name is David and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!