Birds with Foolish Talons: 8 Idiotic U.S. Species

Defining and measuring intelligence among birds is a difficult task to achieve scientifically. This is due to their relatively large brains compared to their head size, as well as their developed visual and auditory senses. Their responses to sensory stimuli are studied in order to observe and measure intelligence. Jays, magpies, crows, ravens, cockatoos, parrots, and macaws are usually thought of as the most intelligent birds. However, which birds are the dumbest birds? Let’s take a look!

The 8 Dumbest Birds

How are birds tested for intelligence? Scientists have actually done very few studies on bird intelligence, as compared to that of apes and other mammals. The few tests conducted used object permanence, conceptual abilities, communication, social behavior, tool use, and observational learning to determine intelligence. We hope that there will be many more studies in the future, as we think that all birds are smart and clever in their own way!


California quail is one of the dumbest birds in the U.S.
The quail is one of the dumbest birds because they do not display impressive levels of problem-solving.©Agnieszka Bacal/ 

Quail (Odontophoridae) is a type of small, ground-dwelling bird native to the United States. They are known for their distinctive call, which has been likened to “Bob White.” As far as intelligence goes, quail do not display any particularly impressive levels of problem-solving or cognitive ability. For instance, in laboratory tests, they have demonstrated little aptitude for learning new tasks and recalling information quickly. However, they can be trained to recognize certain objects and respond positively when rewarded with food. This is an indication that they have some capacity for basic learning. Additionally, these birds possess proficient navigational skills. This is often seen in the wild during migration season when adult quails lead flocks of juveniles across long distances without getting lost or confused about direction. All things considered, quail may not be geniuses. However, their natural instincts and behaviors nonetheless serve them well in the wild.

California Gray Chicken

California gray chickens are part of the dumbest birds in the U.S.
California gray chickens don’t remember much from day to day, making them one of the dumbest birds.© Sindelkova 

The California Gray Chicken, which was developed in California in the 1930s, is not known to be a particularly intelligent bird. In fact, it’s considered one of the least intelligent species of chickens in existence today. It has been observed that these birds tend to be easily spooked and show little interest in problem-solving or learning new behaviors. They also don’t seem to remember much from day to day, meaning they can’t learn from their mistakes or retain information for long periods of time. Despite this lack of intelligence, many farmers still raise them due to their hardiness and good egg production rate.

Band-Tailed Pigeon is one of the dumbest birds in the U.S.
The band-tailed pigeon has some level of intelligence for survival, but it isn’t the smartest bird.© 

The band-tailed pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata) is a medium-sized bird native to North America. While it is not the most intelligent of birds, research has shown that these species do possess some level of intelligence and problem-solving skills. For example, they have been observed using tools such as sticks to reach food in hard-to-access areas. They also have an impressive memory for remembering their nesting sites even when displaced over large distances. Additionally, the band-tailed pigeon seems capable of recognizing individual humans. This bird may use facial recognition cues in order to recognize their mates or other members of their flock from afar. All these factors suggest that while they may not be the smartest birds around, they are still far from dumb!


killdeer standing on the beach
The killdeer birds do not have a flight instinct like other animals, so it doesn’t fly away when predators approach.© 

Killdeer birds have been recognized for their low intelligence level. Despite this, they are incredibly resourceful and can be quite cunning when it comes to protecting themselves or their young. They often use distraction tactics to lead predators away from themselves or their nests, such as pretending to be injured so that the predator will follow them instead of going after the eggs. They also have poor navigational skills and have difficulty flying in straight lines. This makes them easy targets for predators while they’re airborne. As a result of these tendencies, killdeer birds are known to struggle with survival in the wild compared to other species of bird.


Wild turkey
Turkeys are one of the dumbest birds due to a lack of awareness as they cannot protect themselves or flee when danger is present.© Winkler 

Wild turkeys living in the United States are notorious for their low intelligence level. They have difficulty recognizing predators and will often stay rooted to one spot until it’s too late. Studies have shown that wild turkeys can be easily fooled by fake owls. Many of them are unable to distinguish between a real predator and an artificial one. This lack of awareness puts wild turkeys at great risk from predators, as they cannot protect themselves or flee when danger is present. Additionally, wild turkeys struggle to learn new behaviors or skills. Even though they may be able to remember something after seeing it once, they are typically unable to use this knowledge in any meaningful way.

American Bushtit

tiny American bushtit perched on cut branch
The American bushtit ignores potential danger signals making it one of the dumbest birds.© Huth 

The bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) is a small, gray songbird found throughout much of western North America. It is the smallest passerine in its range and can be recognized by its distinctive black cap and bib. Despite their diminutive size, they are quite active birds that often flock together in large numbers.

When it comes to intelligence, however, the bushtit bird appears to lack some of the traits associated with smarter species. They have been observed ignoring potential danger signals from other animals or humans. These signals include loud noises or sudden movements that might startle more intelligent birds away from an area. Their nests are also very basic. Most consist of just a few twigs stuck together with spider webs rather than elaborate constructions built out of grasses or moss-like many other species do. As such, they may not be able to recognize complex patterns or plan ahead when constructing their homes as smarter birds can do.

Kentucky Warbler

Male Kentucky Warbler perched on a small branch.
Kentucky Warbler is unable to adapt to new environments, making it one of the dumbest birds in the U.S.©Agami Photo Agency/ 

The Kentucky Warbler (Geothlypis formosa) is a migratory songbird native to North America. It has yellow underparts, olive-green upper parts, and a long black tail with white spots near the tip. The male also has a bright chestnut cap and cheek patch. This species breeds in deciduous forests of the eastern and central United States. They can be found from Minnesota east to New England, southward through Florida into Mexico. Its diet consists mainly of insects during the breeding season. However, it shifts to fruits during winter migration and post-breeding dispersal when food may be more abundant or accessible due to fewer competitors like other insectivorous birds who have already migrated out of its range.

The Kentucky Warbler is known to be a low-intelligence bird, mainly due to its inability to adapt to new environments. It is also known for being a poor navigator. It often flies in circles when trying to migrate or relocate during the breeding season. Furthermore, research has shown that the Kentucky Warbler does not have strong problem-solving skills and relies heavily on instinct rather than learning behaviors through experience. As such, it can be quite difficult for this bird species to survive in certain conditions or habitats where they are unable to find food sources readily available.

Western Meadowlark

western meadowlark
Western Meadowlarks are one of the dumbest birds because they do not look both ways when crossing the street and become roadkill.© 

A Western Meadowlark is a medium-sized bird that can be found in the western two-thirds of the United States. The species has also been introduced to Hawaii, where it is now established. It belongs to the family of passerine birds and commonly inhabits grasslands, meadows, pastures, and agricultural fields.

Western Meadowlarks are known for their low intelligence when compared with other bird species. They do not always look both ways before crossing roads, causing them to become roadkill frequently due to their lack of caution around cars. Additionally, these birds often mistake shiny objects such as coins or pieces of foil for food and try to consume them even though they pose a health risk for them if ingested. Furthermore, studies have shown that this species does not remember learned behaviors well, which can cause it difficulty adapting to new environments or changes in its current habitat conditions.