Top 5 Most Intelligent Bird Species

The term "bird brain" is often used to describe someone who is a little bit less than bright  but the fact is that this commonly used phrase couldn't be farther from the truth. Birds are some of the most intelligent creatures on Earth. Birds in captivity continue to prove this to us time and time again. Harvard professor Dr. Irene Pepperberg worked with Alex, the African Grey for years and rocked the world of science with her findings about cognition and intelligence in African Grey parrots. If you are interested in owning a pet bird with superior intelligence, then your search should begin here, with the incredibly precocious species listed below. Read on to discover, in no particular order, the most intelligent bird species known to man.

  • 01 of 05

    African Grey Parrots

    African Grey Parrot
    African Grey Parrot. Photo Courtesy of Florida Parrot Rescue

    It's no secret that the African Grey Parrot is regarded as one of the most intelligent bird species on the planet. In fact, African Greys have even been tested and found to have intellects on par with human children! The work of Dr. Irene Pepperberg and her famous parrot "Alex" helped to show the world what magnificent and brilliant creatures these birds actually are. Of course, anyone who has ever owned an African Grey could offer plenty of anecdotes to further prove how brainy these birds are. They have been found to be unusually adept at shape recognition as well as color identification and can be taught a myriad of behaviors that will strengthen your bond with her thorough this form of communication. They have been kept as cherished companion for centuries. 

  • 02 of 05


    Hyacinth Macaw
    Hyacinth Macaw. Mike Powles, Oxford Scientific/ Getty Images

    They come in a variety of colors and sizes, and have come to represent the quintessential hookbill, being what most often pops into mind when someone mentions the word parrot. Yes, the beautiful and captivating Macaw is indeed an intelligent bird often wowing people with their remarkable ability to mimic speech and learn tricks. The most recognizable Macaws are the larger ones, such as the Blue and Gold, the Scarlet, the Hyacinth and the Greenwing Macaw. Smaller Macaws, such as the Yellow-Collared, Hahns, and Severe Macaws are less recognized and yet they share their larger counterparts' personality and intellect. The mini-macaws are considered a big bird in a small package. Anyone interested in owning a Macaw should not overlook the smaller members of the Macaw family, as bigger is not necessarily better in terms of what these birds have to offer.

  • 03 of 05

    Amazon Parrots

    Amazon parrot
    Blue fronted Amazon parrot. Michael Leach / Getty Images

    Another type of bird that comes in many varieties that all share equal intellectual capabilities is the intriguing Amazon Parrot. Amazon Parrots have been kept as pets for many hundreds of years, and this is largely due to their supreme intelligence and talking ability. Some Amazons can learn to mimic speech so clearly that their words can barely be discerned from those of an actual human. These birds are extremely vocally talented. In addition to speech, Amazon parrots can be trained to perform a variety of complex tricks and tasks. It's really no wonder that these impressive birds are so highly sought after as pets and have been companion birds to humans for centuries

  • 04 of 05


    Cockatoo Pair With Crest Raised
    boti / Getty Images

    Known more for their endearing personalities than their speaking ability, Cockatoos are another type of bird that scores exceptionally high on intelligence tests. These sweethearts from Down Under come in a variety of sizes, much like the Amazons and Macaws. While each type has their own special traits, they are all considered an intelligent species.  If you are looking for an especially affectionate parrot, then a Cockatoo may be what you are looking for if you have the time and the patience to raise them to be independent.  These birds bond extremely strongly with their owners, and many enjoy being handled, cuddled, and petted as much as possible. Limits must be set however as it is best that cockatoos learn to play with toys on their own and occupy themselves when you cannot entertain them. Bear in mind that these birds can be extremely loud. 

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Eclectus Parrots

    Male Eclectus parrot
    Lindsay Brown / Getty Images

    The eye-catching Eclectus Parrot is also no slouch when it comes to brains. Like the other species listed here, they can be taught to talk and perform tricks and behaviors and they make excellent companions when properly trained using positive reinforcement training. The male Eclectus is a vivid green color while the females have gorgeous red and purple feathering, making them ideal birds for people who want a lot of color in their lives. Consider an Eclectus if you want to form a strong bond with a pet bird who loves socialization and playtime with their owner. Eclectus parrots are dimorphic which means that there are distinct differences in appearance in males and females. 

    Edited by: Patricia Sund