Are Parrots Smart? + Are Parrots Intelligent?

Are Parrots Smart? + Are Parrots Intelligent?

I have been learning about parrots and wondered how smart they are. I did a little research, and here’s what I found. So, are parrots smart?

Parrots can count objects, identify various colors and shapes, and also understand probabilities.

African grey parrots are considered the most brilliant globally, and they have been shown to be as intelligent as a 5-year-old human. Parrots are capable of complex vocalizations.

This article will cover everything you need to know. Whether you’re interested in how clever parrots are compared to dogs, other birds, and how much human language they understand.

Are parrots smart and intelligent

Why Are Parrots Intelligent?

Parrots are colorful and intelligent. At the same time, parrots are famous for their ability to talk just like humans. Hence, they are considered to be more innovative as well.

So, let us understand what makes a parrot brilliant.


Parrot’s brain is highly developed and efficient when compared with other mammals and birds. Genes have played a vital role in brain development.

As per the study, parrots are highly social like humans capable of complex vocalizations. Parrots have bigger brains in comparison with other birds and more communication skills. They have similar conserved elements that set them apart from most of the other birds.

Flight navigation, social relationships, adaptability, language, and problem-solving ability are some of the skills that parrots possess in their powerful brain.

Extensive vocabulary

Parrots are capable of an extensive vocabulary. They are very swift at learning. No other creature on this planet comes closer to parrots when it comes to mimicking human speech, sound effects, and songs as accurately as a captive parrot.

Dr. Irene Pepperberg extensively studied Alex, an African grey parrot. As per her study, Alex had a rudimentary understanding of numerical concepts. Also, it had a vocabulary of around 100 words which is remarkable.

As per Dr. Irene Pepperberg’s experiment, it concluded that Alex was not only mimicking the human language but also understood the concepts.

To our mere surprise, Alex even created a few words of its own. Hence, based on the results, we can understand that Alex’s had a 5-year-old human child’s intelligence.

Object Permanence

It is the ability to understand that objects still exist even though they are not visible or heard.

When an object is hidden from sight, infants assume that it has vanished. It is one of the critical developmental milestones achieved by a human child by the age of two.

A young parrot named Griffin has been extensively tested for this ability. He showed the understanding that an object that is not visible to him still exits at an early age of just 21 weeks.

As he grew older, he became more competent. At the age of 52 weeks, he could retrieve the object hidden in the box.

Although, he has not seen the researcher place the object inside the box. It indicates that parrots are indeed bright and are not the ones to get easily fooled.

Interesting Further Reading:

Are Parrots The Most Intelligent Birds?

There are limited studies that have been conducted to see which birds are the most intelligent.

Among the parrot species, the African Gray parrot and Macaw are considered the most intelligent.

Wikipedia suggests among the corvid family of birds – ravens, crows, jays, and magpies are also some of the most intelligent birds.

However, no studies have been done to prove this fact.Few experiments showed that birds’ corvid family is either psychic, good at reading body language, or highly intelligent.

Here’s a video of a test done by a person where a crow had to solve a complex puzzle to get food:

As you can see, crows are incredibly intelligent. However, there hasn’t been any study conducted between crows and parrots that definitively say whether parrots are more intelligent than corvids.

And at the moment, there is only a consensus that parrots and corvids are the most brilliant birds in the world.

Parrots can name the color of objects, the names of different objects, and understand probabilities. Researchers did a study on Kea, which is a parrot from New Zealand, to test their cognitive abilities.

The experiment showed that a Kea could guess the most efficient way to get food. By choosing the hand that was most likely to have the correct colored token to get the treat.

It was something that Kea worked out on their own that shows that they are incredibly clever. Birds of all types are remarkable at imitating the sounds they hear around them, such as car horns, car alarms, and people talking.

But there is no comprehensive study to rate each type of bird’s intelligence, and no comparison between them has been made.

Intelligence can also be a bit subjective, and being competent in one area but not in others. Therefore, researchers have to break down that question into more detail.

They could measure whether seagulls can memorize certain information better than parrots. And separate that from their ability to say words. Due to the many thousands of bird species, it would take some time to get to the subject’s bottom.

Are Parrots More Intelligent Than Dogs?

Dogs are also considered to be intelligent animals. But, how do parrots compare to dogs? Here’s what I found.

Parrots and dogs are considered to be about the same in terms of intelligence. However, parrots appear more intelligent because they can talk like humans.

Dogs can make noises that indicate their mood. But are unable to produce words very well, which makes it seem like they are less intelligent.

Certain people have trained their dogs to press buttons that say words. However, the sentences they create don’t make any sense. And I’m sure if you trained a dog to press buttons to answer basic questions like a parrot, they could do it as well as a parrot could.

I think that is because you can train dogs to do certain things by giving them commands with your voice. For example, ‘sit’ or ‘stay.’

And so, if you train them to press the right button when you ask a particular question, they will learn to press it. Similar to if you say ‘shake hands, and they put a paw out. But because parrots can talk and say what particular objects are, they seem more intelligent.

Do Parrots Understand Human Language?

I was curious about whether parrots understand what a person is saying. They indeed can, but they need to be taught what the words mean using food.

However, after they learn to talk, they can tell you complex information, such as how many blue objects there are in a group of different colored objects.

It shows they can understand a complex question, where they need to first differentiate between different colored objects and then count them.

But some people believe that parrots memorize specific questions and answers rather than understanding what they’re doing. Animals generally perform fundamental activities during their lifetime.

For example, they will wake up, forage for food, make shelter, mate, and sleep. And people believe they are responding to their instincts to the environment rather than thinking about things logically and coming up with the best course of action.

Another example is they can learn that when a person holds up a particular object and makes a specific sound, they will get food.

How Bright Are Parrots Compared To Other Animals?

Understanding how wise parrots are compared to other animals is difficult to measure. Animals can create tools such as trimming a twig to fit down a hole to get at insects.

Also, animals wouldn’t last long in the wild if they couldn’t gather food and shelter from the weather. And so, any intelligence beyond this point isn’t necessary for survival.

Therefore, to answer this question, researchers needed to develop tests different from what they would experience in the wild to measure how intelligent animals are in different areas compared to what humans can do.

For example, how well could they answer a math question, perform on a memory test, or solve a puzzle?

Based on these areas, researchers generally conclude that the most intelligent animals are:

  • Chimpanzees
  • Goats
  • Elephants
  • Dolphins
  • Crows/Parrots
  • Bees
  • Octopi

Exactly how smart they are relative to each other has to be tested across various factors and would be an interesting scientific finding that could be discovered in the future.

Recommended Further Reading:

Which Parrot Is The Most Intelligent?

Overall, parrots are all about as bright as each other. However, every parrot has its temperament.

For example, Kea’s are curious, inquiring, and playful. At the same time, Pionus are considered to be calmer. But, when taught in the same way, they can all learn to do the same things.

Below is the list of the most intelligent parrots.

  • African grey parrot
  • Macaw
  • Amazon Parrot
  • Cockatoo
  • Eclectus Parrot
  • Budgerigars (Budgie)
  • Indian Ringneck Parrot
  • Monk Parakeet

The brain size to head size of a parrot is quite large compared to some other animals. And people have said that the size of an animal’s brain corresponds to how smart it is.

For example, Budgies are very small and don’t eat much, whereas Cockatoos and African grey parrots are very large.

Therefore, larger parrots are thought to be brighter than smaller parrots because they have bigger brains. But, so far, it remains a mystery.