The Most Intelligent Bird Breeds

Bird-brained is not necessarily a bad thing – when it comes to birds! Along with their beautiful, colorful plumes, pet birds are prized for their companionship and their quick wits. Some are even legendary – traveling the world as an illegal hot commodity. Fortunately, many bird rescues exist, some even specializing in exotics who have lost their homes. If you’re looking for an avian companion, look to these groups first.

The African Grey Parrot

The results are in and the African Grey Parrot seems to have the highest IQ of any pet bird species. This big beauty has a sizeable vocabulary – for a bird. Its ability to talk and mimic human sounds makes it an eerily fascinating companion. However, like many exotic bird species this bird has been captured by humans to be traded on the market as a pet. Other people use the bird as a food source.


This parrot family member is known for the pretty crest on its head. They can be extremely loud and rambunctious so they may not be suitable for apartment dwellers. They are considered smart because they can use tools. Cockatoos have been known to break sticks to the perfect size and then bang them against a tree as an effort to communicate.


Macaws have high IQs and EQs! Their average lifespan in the wild is an astounding 50 years and can be extended to 75 in captivity. Their uncanny cleverness can partially explain their long lives – they’ve been quick-witted enough to evade danger in the wild. Being emotionally intelligent, it is said they are attuned to the emotions of their human owners.


Budgerigars are the smartest of the parakeets. Budgies talk in context – meaning they can almost have a conversation! They’ve been known to talk in relation to time and to concepts. Although they are incredibly intelligent it takes a caring and patient caregiver to foster that trait.


Finches are prized for their adorable chubbiness and their unique coloring but they also have a wonderful birdsong to lighten the darkest day. They are low-maintenance birds so they are perfect for busy families. They get very territorial and jealous so give them a large enough space to have “alone” time if you have multiple finches.


These pretty yellow birds in the finch family had a macabre history in mining. When they were in distress, miners knew that dangerous gases were at toxic levels. Back then, they hardly resembled the canaries of today. The birds were bred in captivity for specific physical characteristics resulting in their bright yellow coloring. No longer used to detect poisonous underground gases, they are now more renowned for their exquisite, trilling bird songs.


How Birds Become Smart

Like humans, birds can be highly intelligent when placed in the right environment. A learning environment and an owner who fosters their development are two elements in creating a smart bird. A bird doesn’t start to talk and have conversations of its own accord; their owners must encourage this behavior through training. This means giving them a clean home and nutritious food, keeping them busy with toys and play, and giving them plenty of affection. Birds may not be a likely cuddling companion, but they often love to be held and petted all the same. Pet birds have the wherewithal to perform all kinds of parlor tricks, but they need a human to guide them along.

By Gabrielle Allemeier


Canadian Living: Top 5 Smartest Pet Birds
Coops and Cages: 5 of the Smartest Pet Birds in the World
Lafeber Company
San Diego Zoo: Cockatoo

About the Author
Gabrielle Allemeier volunteers her free time as an animal rescuer and foster pet parent. As an animal lover, she enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience with a variety of animals. Along with being an animal lover, Gabrielle is a globetrotter. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her terrier, Thisbe.