A recent study shows that ravens are even smarter than people imagined they were, smarter, even than small children.
We’ve long known ravens aren’t your typical bird brain: Myths featuring the wily black bird extend from Aesop’s fables to Native American folklore.
In more recent times, experiments testing the problem-solving capabilities of ravens and their corvid kin, the jays and magpies, have shown these birds have cognition on par with people and some other great apes. (Read how ravens hold grudges against cheaters.)
For instance, a trademark of being human is the flexibility to plan for future events, such as saving for retirement or figuring out a meal for the next morning. Scientists previously believed these behaviors were unique to hominids—humans and great apes—because no other animals, including monkeys, were thought to have such abstract thinking skills.
Now, a new study may challenge that long-held notion: Ravens are just as good as us at pre-planning tasks, according to animal cognition researchers Can Kabadayi and Mathias Osvath at Sweden’s Lund University.
“I’m a little bit surprised they were that good,” remarks Osvath, who has studied raven cognition for nearly a decade.
The birds are surprisingly skilled at planning how to get food in the future, and will even trade for it.