Home Science Crows’ Surprising Math Skills – They are able to count like children

Crows’ Surprising Math Skills – They are able to count like children


The ability to count out loud requires an understanding of quantity, and it appears that crows can count “out loud” much like a child learns to count.

Researchers from the University of Tübingen in Germany discovered that the brains of these birds can count up to four. This is the first study to clearly show that a non-human species can link voluntary vocalizations with understanding of quantity.

The ability to count out loud is different from the ability to understand numbers because communication also requires concentrated voice control. Crows, known to understand complex number concepts like zero, can acquire more complex numerical skills.

Researchers trained three corvids to make one to four sounds in response to visual and auditory cues. The results were surprising, with crows able to consciously and accurately produce a specific number of sounds in response to specific cues, a level of control not yet seen in other animals.

The authors describe their findings as “producing a specific number of purposeful vocalizations requires a sophisticated combination of numerical skills and vocal control.”

Experts believe that monitoring squawks, tracking vocalizations involves “timing… and requires a lot of memory and planning” and may indicate a communication channel previously unknown for birds in the wild.

Each “number” spoken by crows has different acoustic characteristics compared to the others, similar to how words like “one”, “two”, and “three” sound different in human speech.

Experts discovered that crows’ counting ability may represent an evolutionary precursor to human counting, where numbers are part of a system of combinatorial symbols.

Crows’ counting ability helps them in various aspects of their survival and daily life, such as proper egg and chick care, mating rituals, avoiding predators, and searching for food.


  1. Liao, et al. (2024). Crows “count” the number of self-generated vocalizations. Science, 384, 874-877.
  2. Wagener, et al. (2023). Crows protect visual working memory against interference. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 226.

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