How Smart Are Parrots Compared to Humans?

A new study shows that parrots are smarter than previously thought. Researchers say that the birds are as good at some cognitive tasks as a 3-year-old human child.


Since the dawn of time, humans have sought to understand the role of animals in our world. One of the most intriguing and captivating subjects is the intelligence and ability of parrots. Parrots are one of the smartest birds on Earth, due in large part to their highly developed vocal capacities and advanced problem solving skills. For centuries, parrots have been celebrated for their agility in responding to environmental cues as well as for their intelligence and curiosity.

Comparisons between parrots’ mental abilities to those of human beings have long been sought after due to human’s natural curiosity as well as potential applications when through understanding how a species is capable of responding to a certain stimulus. While such comparisons can never truly be made objectively due to a vast range of variables that would need to be brought into account, analyzing research data related to cognitive capabilities may provide insight into how evolved language development and responsiveness vary between different species.

In this article we will discuss current knowledge related to intelligence among parrots by examining scientific research which attempts answering the question: How smart are parrots compared to humans?

Parrot Intelligence

Parrots are known for their impressive intelligence and ability to mimic human speech. They are environmentally adaptable and can remember large numbers of objects and words. But how does their intelligence actually compare to that of humans? In this section, we will be exploring the topic of parrot intelligence and examining how it compares to that of humans.

Cognitive Abilities

Parrots have remarkable cognitive abilities that are sometimes comparable to those of a human toddler. Parrots are self-aware and can recognize themselves in mirrors, understand the concept of time, learn new behaviors with deliberate practice, and remember the locations of people and objects. They also possess problem solving skills and tool-making abilities.

Given the right environment and teaching methods, some parrot species can acquire remarkable language skills while others excel at numerical tasks. Research has shown that parrots use abstract reasoning to make decisions, such as using shapes to identify colors or sizes to infer amounts of food. Additionally, parrots can form mental images of items not directly in front of them by remembering how they were moved around without seeing them again.

Parrot intelligence also goes beyond problem-solving abilities; they also possess emotions like joy and sorrow that are highly similar to those experienced by humans. These feelings influence their behavior when interacting with other animals or people; it is believed that stress levels in parrots correlate strongly with their ability to be social due to their intelligence being affected by emotional states.


Parrots have extremely good memories, which helps them remember locations, behavior, and faces of owners. They are capable of recognizing up to 500 or so words and phrases, making them incredibly intelligent. This makes them great companion animals as they can learn a variety of tricks and behaviors. Parrots are also known to be able to recognize patterns, shapes and find creative solutions to problems.

When it comes to memory capacity, parrots can actually outperform humans in certain tasks such as object-location memory tests. For example, parrots can remember the location of food items despite changes in position – something no human can do! Similarly, the parrot’s short-term memory abilities are far superior as they’re able to recall a list of items presented with 90% accuracy for up to 30 minutes! On the other hand, humans tend to have difficulty recalling more than 5 items after less than 15 minutes.

In addition, studies have shown that some parrot species are able even recognize themselves in mirrors (called the “mirror test”), another proof of their incredible intelligence level.


When it comes to problem-solving, parrots can be surprisingly adept. Many species of parrot are capable of understanding cause and effect relationships and showing signs of cognitive flexibility when presented with a problem. For example, some parrot species have been observed using tools to obtain food items or open a box or container that is otherwise inaccessible. They can also learn to navigate complex mazes, solve challenging puzzles, and complete tasks by following verbal cues given by human caregivers.

In addition, research has shown that some parrot species can form an understanding of two-way object permanence — the ability to recognize that an object continues to exist even if it cannot be seen — which indicates an impressive level of reasoning power. This trait is usually only seen in animals with much larger brains, such as primates and dolphins.

Ultimately, although scientists still debate exactly how smart these friendly feathered friends are compared to humans, there is no doubt that parrots possess remarkable intellectual abilities and are more than capable of learning complex tasks and solving problems.

Parrot Communication

Despite their small size, parrots are one of the most remarkable birds on the planet capable of communicating with their owners. Parrots have unique vocalisations that humans can understand, and can even learn to imitate words and phrases. But how do their communication skills compare to those of humans? Let’s delve into the differences between human and parrot communication.

Language Acquisition

Parrots are well-known for their ability to imitate human speech, but they possess far more complex communication skills. While language is something that humans must be taught, parrots can pick up vocalizations and behavioral patterns naturally. Parrot owners may find that their pet gradually learns the names of items or people and starts using them in context to communicate.

Parrot language has a wide vocabulary and subtle nuances that influence the way parrots communicate with each other in the wild. In addition to vocalizations like chirps, whistles and squawks, parrots may use body posturing and facial expression to craft a message. These messages can include warning sounds when potential danger approaches, as well as friendly calls used when greeting flock members.

Just like humans, parrots learn phrases from each other within a group known as a flock or family group. Each flock has its own culture featuring expressions and behaviors communicated between members which are passed down from generation to generation. This type of language learning is called vertical communication because it’s passed from older birds down to younger birds within the same family unit.

Parrot language also includes physical contact such as preening which involves feathers being gently pulled apart or adjusted by one bird while another holds still — it’s thought to indicate trust between them while they bond through grooming rituals like this one. Parrot communication is an extremely sophisticated system — some experts even think parrots understand sarcasm!


Parrots stand out among birds with their ability to mimic human speech. This is known as vocal mimicry, the process of parrots learning and repeating sounds they hear. While there is some variation in the ability of different types of parrots to imitate vocalizations, some species can imitate a wide range of human words, phrases and even whole sentences with amazing accuracy. African grey parrots are particularly noted for their vocal mimicry abilities.

It appears that parrots have the ability to remember and reproduce spoken language words even when they cannot be seen – unkindly dubbed as “parroting” by some! Additionally, research suggests that parrots are capable of understanding certain words and phrases; deciphering them from differences in intonation. It is thought that some birds may even comprehend basic grammar concepts such as commands like “Do this” or “Take me there”.

Most bird species are capable of facial recognition, meaning they use physiology to communicate messages without having to use human-like vocalizations; although research suggests that it is possible for some species to do so as well. Vocal mimicry in birds usually begins at a young age when they are taught by their parents or other family members before developing further through adulthood. As such, there appears to be considerable potential for increasing communication abilities between people and their pet birds by introducing training or talking exercises early enough in development!

Social Interaction

Parrots may not be able to replicate human speech, but that doesn’t mean they can’t communicate. In fact, parrots are surprisingly adept at social interaction, particularly in those species that congregate in large flocks. These birds recognize and interact with one another, displaying both individual personalities and flock dynamics.

The intricate vocalizations of these animals are used to keep the flock together by making it easier for individuals to locate one another within a large crowd. Parrots also use their vocalizations to solicit food and mates, or as a warning signal to alert other members of the flock of potential danger. Some studies have even suggested that some parrot species can recognize complex language patterns and respond accordingly.

When parrots are kept as pets they often form strong bonds with their caretakers through imitated speech or physical contact. Experienced owners will sometimes allow these birds to ride on their shoulders or sit on their hands while talking or interacting with them — an activity which has been found to strengthen the bond between human and parrot.

Human Intelligence

Human intelligence is difficult to measure, but studies have shown that humans can be more cognitively advanced than other animals in many areas such as self-awareness, language, problem solving, and creative thinking. But how does this compare to the intelligence of parrots, one of the smartest animals? Let’s take a closer look.

Cognitive Abilities

When it comes to cognitive abilities, parrots prove to be the most advanced of all birds. Tests have been conducted to compare parrots to other species, including humans. Studies suggest that parrots possess a wide range of cognitive capacities on a level equivalent to that of some primates.

Parrots have been observed to excel in certain mental tasks, such as stringing objects together and copying human behavior. They can also quickly learn and repeat new words and phrases. In regards to planning for the future, some species of parrot are able to hide food when there is an abundance, then retrieve it later during scarce periods or times of hunger.

In addition, some researchers suggest that parrots have the ability for abstract reasoning—the capacity to apply logic and problem-solving skills in order to justify actions as well as formulate plans. Parrots may also have the ability for self-awareness, a trait which is widely thought exclusive only of humans and some higher primates. Parrot behaviors further suggest they are capable of multiple levels of thinking and understanding regarding their environment beyond just visual perception or simple motor commands learned through conditioning or training techniques triggered by external cues or rewards.


Memory, or the capacity to recall previously experienced or learned information, is a key component of intelligence. There are several different types of memory, including short-term (Working) memory and long-term memory.

Humans excel in episodic memory, the type of memory that stores personal events, such as vacations or experiences with friends. Parrots are thought to have some episodic memory, but humans are far superior in this particular area thanks to their superior language skills and ability to impose structure on memories through stories and narrative.

Humans have a much better short-term (working) memory than parrots. Humans can store seven pieces of information for brief periods of time — which is known as the “magical number 7” — while parrots seem unable to remember more than a few pieces at once. This could be why parrots appear so clumsy when trying complex tasks. They simply can’t remember what they should do next!

For long-term memories, both humans and parrots can store a surprising amount of information for long periods of time; however, scientists still don’t completely understand how we both retrieve this stored information from our brains later on. Experts estimate that an average human could recall up to 20 years worth of memories with perfect accuracy — something that no parrot has come close too yet!


Problem-solving is often viewed as a measure of human intelligence, and some parrots have demonstrated remarkable capabilities in this area. Certain species are adept at solving puzzles and finding hidden rewards with minimal guidance from their owners. For instance, the African gray parrot can recognize pictures of objects and use symbols to identify specific items, allowing it to “talk” to humans. Similarly, the Goffin’s Cockatoo has been observed using sticks to reach out-of-reach objects.

Parrots are also capable of solving complex problems by recognizing patterns. Experiments have shown that parrots can learn how to move an object out of a trap using their beaks and feet if presented with adequate training techniques. Another popular test for cognitive skills involves operating touch screens with a stylus or similar tool; researchers have found that some species master this task quickly and accurately in accordance with their increased intelligence levels.

It’s important to note that problem-solving capabilities vary widely from species to species, as some are more intelligent than others. Through continued research into animal cognition and behavioral studies, scientists hope we can better understand how human intelligence differs from that of our avian friends.

Human Communication

Parrots are surprisingly intelligent creatures and they are capable of understanding a wide array of human communication. Compared to humans, parrots learn how to talk faster and more accurately, as well as at a younger age. Additionally, many parrots can mimic human speech better than most animals, even when given limited exposure to humans. Let’s explore the unique ways parrots communicate with humans.

Language Acquisition

The ability of parrots to learn and use language has long been a source of great fascination. While it is true that some parrots are able to mimic human speech quite effectively, the level at which they can actually understand and use language is still much lower than that of humans.

Parrots are very adept at sound imitation, so they learn to make the correct sounds when the proper context is provided. However, they do not possess deeper knowledge or understanding of those sounds. In this sense, parrots can display a form of early language acquisition abilities similar to that of a young child. For example, many birds will frequently use words out of context—much like a toddler—in order to gain attention or affection from their owners.

When it comes to communication between two or more birds, parrot behavior does not appear to be as advanced as human behavior; instead it closely resembles other animals in terms of communicating with others in their species via body cues or vocalizations such as squawks and chirps. As with any other animal species—including humans—observing their environments and displaying learned behaviors is crucial for survival in their respective habitat.

Social Interaction

Though their cognitive abilities are not as complex as those of humans, parrots have demonstrated the ability to socially interact with other birds and animals. They are considered quite social, often interacting with multiple birds in one flock. Many factors influence the social behavior of a parrot, such as its level of trust, hormones, and past experiences.

Parrots can form monogamous relationships or even show an inclination for polyamory depending on the situation. Additionally, these birds often engage in cooperative behavior to solve problems together as a flock and protect their young from predators. This demonstrates that there is more than just instinct guiding their overall social interactions.

Parrots can also be taught to copy human words and phrases which allows them to use language-based communication. Research has even found that parrots not only learn the sounds of human speech but may understand some of its meaning as well due to their high level of intelligence.

To sum it up, parrots are capable of engaging in both instinctual and learned social interactions; however they do not currently have the capacity for more abstract concepts like humans do such as conversation beyond basic responses or understanding complex contexts within verbal language.


Parrots are considered intelligent animals and have been observed showing skill in problem solving and forming associative memories with their environment. Some species of parrots are even believed to have intelligence that rivals that of human toddlers. In this section, we will compare the intelligence of parrots to that of humans in order to gain a better understanding of how smart parrots really are.

Cognitive Abilities

Parrots are among the world’s most intelligent birds and have been studied for decades. In comparison to humans, parrots register at the level of a 4-6 year old human child. Parrots show varying degrees of intelligence in different areas and can perform impressive tasks, such as counting, solving puzzles and recognizing shapes.

Parrots have the ability to recognize the differences between various objects and can be trained by their owners to complete certain tasks or remember certain words or phrases. They also possess some degree of self-awareness, as demonstrated by mirror tests in which birds recognized their reflections as their own.

However, there are key differences between human cognitive abilities and those of parrots. Although they may understand simple instructions given by their owners, they lack basic reasoning skills such as understanding cause and effect relationships or complex problem-solving abilities such as comprehending abstract concepts like mathematics. Parrots also lack language comprehension abilities compared to humans since they primarily imitate sounds rather than process words with deeper meaning.


Parrots are known for their remarkable memories and have been observed to remember information, such as behaviors and sounds, for many years. In some cases, parrots can even recall details that humans have failed to recall. This is due in part to the fact that parrots store memories in multiple ways — they store information visually, audibly, and behaviorally. This allows them to recall multiple pieces of information at once.

Studies have also demonstrated that parrots possess excellent short-term memory skills. Some species of parrot can accurately remember complex sequences of numbers in order and distinguish between different colors after a single exposure.

Not only do parrots demonstrate excellent memories but they also possess the ability to remember locations specific or behavioral responses. In one study, African Grey Parrots were taught how to adjust a puzzle box in order to receive a treat reward when placed inside the box again after being removed from it months later – indicating an incredible level of cognition and long-term memory skills unseen amongst non-human animals.

Though still far from the intelligent capacity of humans, these memory capabilities indicate that parrot cognition is more complex than previously hypothesized and raises questions on whether there may be more untapped potential within these birds than even scientists are aware of.


Problem-solving is one of the most important measures when comparing the cognitive abilities of humans with those of wildlife. Parrots show impressive problem-solving skills that can even compare to those of some primates. For example, some parrot species have successfully used tools to find food and are capable of learning long strings of symbols through trial and error. They are able to assess potential risks and remember solutions they found before applying them in similar situations.

Parrots quickly adapt to problem-solving scenarios if they see that the environment is suitable for their development and that the experience following a successful solution brings a reward worth pursuing. Also, experts found that parrots are able to learn a certain level of abstraction by establishing causal relationships between actions and consequences, which gives them the ability to make educated guesses about novel problems within their capabilities.

In comparison, humans have an unparalleled capacity read abstract meanings into verbal communications as well as creating mental models containing vast amounts of information necessary for successful problem solving.

Language Acquisition

Parrots and humans have different levels of language acquisition skills, with one of the most impressive being that of parrots. Parrots can imitate words and even sentences by mimicking their human owners, which is an area where humans truly excel. Humans have the ability to learn several languages, whereas parrots only have the ability to master and imitate one language at a time.

Humans are unique in that we possess complex language skills; these include grammar, syntax, phonology, morphology and creativity. Parrots lack these complex linguistic capabilities and therefore cannot communicate with other species as effectively as humans do. However, they can be trained to understand certain words and phrases related to certain activities such as retrieving items and performing tricks.

Parrots also demonstrate a level of intelligence that sets them apart from other animals when it comes to cognitive abilities like problem solving and learning new skills faster than other animals when exposed to similar stimuli. While parrot species can never achieve the same level of language proficiency as humans, they are very adept at adapting to new situations; this includes learning new songs or speech patterns from their owners.

Social Interaction

Parrots and humans have some similarities in their ability to interact with others. Parrots, much like humans, are able to recognize the various emotions of their peers and use social cues to communicate these feelings. Parrot interactions involve both vocalization and body language that range from playful movement or clucking of beaks to preening or raising a foot to yield priority. They are also known for exhibiting human-like expressions such as raising an eyebrow or tilting the head in a quizzical manner.

Parrots exhibit cognitive abilities similar to those of humans when it comes to social interactions, as they can observe and learn certain behaviors observed in others. Parrots also develop relationships with others within their flock, forming strong bonds with considerable amounts of vocal displays, physical movements, and offering food items back and forth in exchange for affection. Additionally, parrot owners may be surprised at how possessive their pet can become over objects that it perceives as its own possessions.

In terms of intelligence level, parrots are on par with other animals such as primates when it comes to social interaction – although they may not always come out ahead in understanding complex concepts or language processes learned from books or television programming like a human sometimes can. Researchers who study parrots offer valuable insight into the social dynamics between them, providing an understanding of behavior that will benefit both bird owners and researchers alike for years to come.


Overall, parrots are considered to be highly intelligent creatures and can easily hold their own in comparison to some non-human primates. Many parrots effortlessly learn to mimic human speech and displays of affection, even without any professional guidance or training. This unmatched level of cognitive skills makes them an ideal companion for humans and one of the most sought-after animals when considering pet ownership.

Despite being considered intelligent by most standards, parrots still lack the same level of awareness that humans possess -­ the ability to problem solve in abstract contexts and engage in complex behaviors. This means that while they may be capable of learning many concepts, they are unlikely to ever reach a human’s level of intelligence. Parrots can, however, offer keen insights into animal behavior and provide the opportunity for lifelong companionship.

Checkout this video:

Similar Posts