When thinking of talking birds, most people will immediately resort to parrots since these birds are known for their peculiar ability to mimic what you say. While parrots are quite interesting birds, I have found that other birds – like crows – are often overlooked for all the fascinating skills they have. But are crows able to rise to the occasion and talk like parrots?
Crows can mimic human speech similarly to parrots, considering that both kinds of birds share good audio memory and the anatomy needed to copy the sound of human language. However, crows aren’t widely domesticated, so you are a lot less likely to run into a talking crow compared to a parrot.
Hearing other animals copy the way we humans communicate is always fascinating and begs the question; how do they do it.
From the unique anatomy of crows and parrots to their keen sense of hearing, excellent memory, and high intelligence, these birds really do pull out all the stocks when it comes to repeating our own words back to us.
Do crows talk like parrots?
Crows are very intelligent and social birds, having developed complex methods of communication. Not only do they have a range of sounds they can make, but they have been observed to communicate differently with their family and friends.
There are even differences in how they sound depending on where in the world they are located. Crows have also mastered non-verbal communication.
With a combination of their high intelligence, fantastic memory, and ability to create sound, crows can mimic human speech if taught correctly.
However, since crows don’t spend much time around humans, they are less likely to speak in comparison to parrots.
Why I Have Never Seen A Talking Crow?
Unlike parrots, crows are not kept as pets. Mostly crows are seen outdoors and therefore they are not seen as having human interaction which makes learning and mimicking words difficult for them.
Due to crows distant relationship with people, you may notice a considerable difference in their fluency and vocabulary as opposed to parrots.But this does not mean that crows are less capable of learning human speech.
Their skill will primarily rely on what age they were taught, how many contacts they have with humans, and how often they practice speaking.
Despite their ‘pet’ role to witches in movies, crows aren’t particularly domesticated birds. Crows and their close relatives – like ravens – are migratory birds and are often protected by federal law. Thus, making it illegal to keep a native crow or raven unless you have a federal permit.
Although, if you do have access to crows through wildlife sanctuaries or other similar institutions, it is entirely possible to teach them to mimic human speech.
Also, if you like ravens and want to keep that as a pet, please go through our informational post on “Can you have a pet raven?”
Here is a video of a talking crow and its ability to mimic human speech:
How to Train a Crow to Talk?
There is a prevalent myth that you need to split a crow’s tongue to teach it to talk. Not only is this completely false, but it’s cruel and unnecessary mutilation.
A crow’s tongue does not need to split for it to mimic human speech. Teaching a crow to speak is not as difficult as you may think; in fact, the process doesn’t differ from teaching a parrot or parakeet to talk.
When teaching any bird to talk, it is essential that they have regular interactions with humans. The constant and daily exposure to humans – especially when we’re talking around them or even directly to them – allows crows to pick up on the sounds we make when we talk.
Moreover, if you make a point to repeat words to a crow, like greeting them with ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye,’ they will remember these words more and will eventually, with practice, be able to repeat them back to you.
Much like human children, it is often easier to teach birds to speak when they are younger and have an imprinting process in place.
But this doesn’t mean that they can’t learn to talk in their later years. It may take some extra patience, but crows are intelligent and should be able to pick up human speech at almost any age if taught well.
Teaching a crow – or any bird – to mimic speech takes effort from both sides. Keep in mind that birds don’t have vocal cords and are making these sounds in a wildly different way than we do.
While you’re teaching a crow to talk, it is crucial that you use a lot of repetition and only teach them one word at a time. You should also be able to teach them phrases and songs.
When a crow is learning their first word, it could take weeks until they grasp it, so you need to be patient and encourage them by offering treats.
Though it may be a slow and challenging process, the more words a crow learns, the faster and better they will get when learning new words and phrases.
Crows often learn words faster than other bird species due to their excellent memory. Crows are also able to remember and recite complete sentences.
Not only can crows mimic human speech and other sounds, but they can also learn to count and identify colors.
Can Crows Talk Better Than Other Birds?
While songbirds and parrots are the most known for their ability to mimic human speech, birds of the Corvidae family – such as crows and ravens – are just as capable of recreating the sounds of human language.
Much like other bird species that can mimic human speech, the degree of fluency and accuracy a crow speaks differs due to multiple factors.
Factors like the age at which a bird first learns to speak, how they are taught, and how often they practice all affect their overall skill.
Furthermore, it also comes down to the bird’s raw intelligence, memory, and physical anatomy. Considering all of these variables, it seems to nearly be a miracle that these beautiful creatures can sound like us at all.
The top 5 talking birds are as follows:
- African Grey
- Amazon Parrot
- Indian Ringneck Parakeet
- Quaker Parrot
Although, crows are often left behind when it comes to ranking the best speaking birds, simply because it is a lot less likely to meet a talking crow compared to a parrot.
Though crows have superior intelligence and memory to nearly all birds, the one thing which hinders their ability to talk the most is the lack of time they spend around humans.
How Do Crows Talk?
The way crows are able to learn words, phrases, songs and to imitate tones despite their lack of vocal cords, lips, and teeth is remarkable.
Given that crows cannot produce sounds through their larynx, they rely on their keen hearing and a combination of their tongues, airways, and throat muscles to make sounds.
While humans have a larynx, nearly all crows have a syrinx. The syrinx is located between a crow’s voice box and bronchial tubes, branching out and opening into the bronchus.
Air from the lungs then passes through the syrinx and is used to produce sound.
Due to its symmetrical structure, birds can produce sound with one, or both sides of the syrinx, making it possible for them to create two different tones simultaneously.
The complexity of the sounds a bird can produce is affected by its neck muscles, the length of its windpipe, and the structure of its beak.
Thus, explaining why larger birds can imitate human speech more fluently than smaller birds.
Furthermore, parrots can use their tongues to make sounds in a more advanced way compared to crows, meaning that parrots are likely to have better or more precise pronunciations.
However, it is impossible for birds to pronounce words exactly the same way we do due to the differences in our anatomy.
Some birds also have trouble making certain sounds – such as soft vowels – meaning they may not fully grasp every word you want them to learn. Most birds can easily mimic harsher consonant sounds, such as d, k, p, t, and b.
Surprisingly, Crows are more than capable of learning to talk and mimic words the way parrots do. Due to their intelligence and the use of their syrinx, crows can learn words, phrases, and even complete sentences.
The approach to training crows to talk is similar to parrots. With repetition and patience, you should be able to help a crow develop a substantial vocabulary as long as they have regular exposure and contact with humans.