Are African Greys Smarter Than Macaws? (Explained!)

African greys are generally considered to be smarter than macaws, though there really isn’t a huge amount of difference. Both are extremely intelligent birds and it is common to consider them the two most intelligent species of parrot. African greys just have a slight edge in some areas.

Intelligence alone, let alone relative intelligence, can be a highly subjective thing.

There are many different factors which some may consider to be more important than others, and there is no single, agreed upon way to determine the intelligence of a given species.

That said, by many common metrics, the African grey does indeed have some advantages over the macaw.

Again, though, both are remarkably intelligent species.

Let’s find out more.


Which is smarter, African grey or macaw?

There is a long and a short answer to this question, so let’s start with the short answer.

The short answer is that most people consider the African grey to be a little bit smarter than the macaw.

It’s generally agreed that, by a few metrics, the African grey has a slight cognitive advantage over the macaw.

However, the keyword here is “slight”.

Parrots in general are remarkably intelligent species, and macaws are particularly intelligent even among parrots; for most people, macaws and African greys take the top two spots of parrot intelligence.

The longer answer, though, is that determining intelligence in animals is not something that can be so easily quantified.

“Intelligence” even in humans is something that carries a great deal of baggage depending on the person that is doing the testing and many other subjective factors.

It’s never as simple as saying “this bird has X IQ and this bird has Y IQ”.

There are many metrics by which you can judge intelligence, and not all are as useful as one another.

Birds in general do have large brains relative to the size of their heads, which does in general make them quite intelligent.

African greys are excellent problem solvers and are incredibly patient.

They are also great talkers and can in some cases learn many words and phrases.

They also seem to be very emotionally intelligent, able to display empathy even with other birds.

All of these are different forms of intelligence, which might be said to go together to give the African grey a general edge of intelligence over the macaw.

Equally, though, there are areas where macaws can be seen to be slightly more intelligent than African greys.

They are sometimes known to bond more closely with their owners and each other.

For some people, especially when it comes to the ownership of a pet, emotional intelligence is by far the most important thing about a pet.

So, for this reason, these people would most likely say that the macaw was more intelligent.

So, again, determining the intelligence of a bird species is a difficult thing; let alone trying to determine a ranked intelligence scale of multiple species.

The most helpful thing for you to do, then, is simply going to be to not think about the animals in this way, and just take full stock of a particular species traits and decide which one fits your lifestyle best.


How can you determine a bird’s intelligence?

There are, as we’ve seen, many different ways of determining different kinds of intelligence in bird species.

Simplifying it, we can perhaps break down “intelligence” into two main categories: cognitive intelligence and emotional intelligence, or perhaps emotional depth.

Cognitive intelligence is perhaps a bit simpler.

To determine a parrot’s cognitive abilities, you can use many problem solving tests such as the box text, in which a bird is presented with two strings with one attached to food, or the box test, where food is placed in a clear box with several access points.

You can also use memory tests and test how well a bird understands time.

Social intelligence tests can be good for determining the emotional depth of a bird—though it’s important to note that this is still a form of anthropomorphises to call it emotional depth.

Family ties tests observe birds around a bird feeder and note which birds act aggressively.

Birds are often less friendly to birds that are not related to them—this is less so the case with parrots that have been bonded to one another, regardless of family ties.

Intelligence tests are highly varied, then, and there are many different forms of intelligence which can be tested.

It’s never as simple as saying “this parrot is more intelligent than this one by a factor of two”. It’s a complex, faceted question.


Are African greys the smartest parrots?

By many people, the African grey is considered to be the smartest parrot.

They have highly developed cognitive abilities, they have profound emotional depth and are able to build incredibly strong connections with others.

They show empathy and excel at memory tests and tests of time.

By virtually all metrics they excel among parrot species, and so the simple answer is that they probably are at least among the most intelligent species of parrot.

It’s worth remembering, though, that individuals in a species can vary enormously.

One individual may be far less intelligent than another.


Are African greys easy to tame?

Taming a parrot is never easy, especially if you don’t have any knowledge or experience of how to do it.

With that said, again, among parrot species, African greys are relatively easy to tame once you’ve got the know-how.

It will not be easy to tame an African grey if you’ve never tamed a parrot before.

Again, it’s all relative. With the proper time and attention, though, you will be able to tame them in a short time.


Do African greys have feelings?

African greys absolutely have feelings.

Again, they can’t necessarily be completely understood in a human framework, but they certainly have feelings.

They are able to show empathy and emotional depth, and they can become deeply depressed if their needs are not met.

Parrots, it’s often said, especially intelligent species like African greys, are said to be about on a level with a five year old child.


Are macaws easy to tame?

When it comes to taming macaws, the same answer essentially applies as with African greys.

Taming them is never going to be “easy” by any stretch.

Even for an experienced tamer, it will take time, patience, and a great deal of commitment.

They have complex needs and emotions and taming is an incredibly delicate process which, in most cases, is carried out from the earliest possible stage.

A macaw that has already reached maturity without being tamed will be infinitely harder to tame, so again there is no single answer to this question.

The simple takeaway is that taming a parrot is never easy.


Do macaws have feelings?

Macaws, like African greys, definitely have feelings.

They are highly social animals and thus their brains need to be able to develop this kind of emotional complexity in order for them to properly function in the wild and in captivity.

They can again show empathy, caring, as well as becoming depressed when their needs are not properly met.

Again, parrots are perhaps the most complex pets emotionally that you can have, far more so than dogs or cats.


Can macaws understand humans?

Macaws can understand humans to a degree, though not in the literal sense—they cannot learn human language.

They can of course associate certain words with certain actions and take them on as commands, as you would be able to teach a dog to do.

They can also display an intuitive understanding of human emotion and that “feelings” question certainly goes both ways.

But there is not a literal sense in which macaws can “understand” humans—though they are certainly much closer to empathy than, say, a dog that can learn to sit.


Intelligence in animals, then, is a complex question.

We all bring our own preconceptions to the table when attempting to determine the intelligence of a particular species of parrot.

There are several ways you can assess how intelligent a bird is, and any one of them may seem more or less valuable to you as an individual and the purposes for which you are investigating the relative intelligence of birds.

The simple answer, for most people, is that African greys are a little bit smarter than macaws; but this doesn’t necessarily hold up in every test.

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