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A note for Lesson no. 2, "Your Brain Is a Network," in Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context from page 44‌ is:

Some bird species can use simple tools and have a bit of language ability...

New Caledonian crows can manufacture tools.[1][2][3] Other birds have also been observed to use tools, such as the New Zealand Kea.[4] There are even bird species that may have a basic ingredient of language.[5][6] (In fact, the neural system that controls vocal learning in birds is thought to be homologous with the system for language learning in the human brain.[7][8]). For interesting research on the language abilities of gray parrots, see the research of scientist Irene Pepperberg.

Interestingly, the animal species with the most complex communication systems are not the ones that are closest to humans in an evolutionary sense.[9] For many examples, see Laland 2017 and references therein.[10]


  1. Hunt, Gavin R., and Russell D. Gray. 2003. "Diversification and Cumulative Evolution in New Caledonian Crow Tool Manufacture." Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences 270 (1517): 867–874.
  2. Rutz, Christian, Lucas A. Bluff, Nicola Reed, Jolyon Troscianko, Jason Newton, Richard Inger, Alex Kacelnik, and Stuart Bearhop. 2010. "The Ecological Significance of Tool Use in New Caledonian Crows." Science 329 (5998): 1523–1526.
  3. Klump, Barbara C., Mathieu Cantat, and Christian Rutz. 2019. "Raw-Material Selectivity in Hook-Tool-Crafting New Caledonian Crows." Biology Letters 15 (2): 20180836.
  4. Goodman, Matthew, Thomas Hayward, and Gavin R. Hunt. 2018. "Habitual Tool Use Innovated By Free-Living New Zealand Kea." Scientific Reports 8 (1): 1–12.
  5. e.g., Engesser, Sabrina, Jodie MS Crane, James L. Savage, Andrew F. Russell, and Simon W. Townsend. 2015. "Experimental Evidence for Phonemic Contrasts in a Nonhuman Vocal System." PLoS Biology 13 (6): e1002171.
  6. Spierings, Michelle J., and Carel Ten Cate. 2016. "Budgerigars and Zebra Finches Differ in How They Generalize in an Artificial Grammar Learning Experiment." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113 (27): E3977–E3984.
  7. Syal, Supriya, and Barbara L. Finlay. 2011. "Thinking Outside the Cortex: Social Motivation in the Evolution and Development of Language." Developmental Science 14 (2): 417–430.
  8. Chakraborty, Mukta, Solveig Walløe, Signe Nedergaard, Emma E. Fridel, Torben Dabelsteen, Bente Pakkenberg, Mads F. Bertelsen et al. 2015. "Core and Shell Song Systems Unique To the Parrot Brain." PLoS One 10 (6): e0118496.
  9. Bickerton, Derek. 2009. Adam's Tongue: How Humans Made Language, How Language Made Humans. New York: Hill and Wang.
  10. Laland, Kevin N. 2017. Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: How Culture Made the Human Mind. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.