One myth I’d like to dispel is that you have to split a pet crow’s tongue to make it talk. First off, birds do not use their tongue the same way we do to make sound, in fact birds don’t even use their larynx to make vocalizations like we do. Birds utilize their syrynx, which is found in the chest just before the bronchi branch off to each lung. Each bronchi can produce a sound using air vibrating through the external labia and the internal tympaniform membranes. (This means that birds can produce two different sounds at once! It’s way cool!) Movement of the avian tongue may change the shape of the mouth as sound is coming out, but not in the same ways as we use our very flexible tongue. So the point is that the tongue (which is fairly rigid in corvids) is not used in creating vocalizations the same way humans do, therefore altering the tongue has nothing to do with the sounds a bird makes or the ability of a crow/raven to mimic human speech. (If you would like to read more about how birds produce sound please click here.)
Most Corvus learn to speak human words, especially when living amongst humans. I have personal theories that it relates to group identity, but let’s just go ahead and move on to the cute videos:
White-necked Raven (Corvus albicollis) that could seriously use a bill trim. (Notice that there is a bit of tongue movement likely to alter the shape of the throat as sound goes out.)
White-necked Raven (Corvus albicollis) saying “hello” and “hi” (with a much nicer bill!)
Julian the Common/Northern Raven (Corvus corax) not only mimicking one person saying “What’s up”, but two different voices.
A crow from the Phillippines, either a Slender-billed Crow (Corvus enca) or a Large-billed Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos). It’s surprisingly tolerant to being held like that, haha! It’s very cute! And I have zero idea what they are saying.
Pied Crow (Corvus albus) saying the ever popular “Helloooo”.
An American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) saying quite a lot of things! He/she is quite adorable!
A New Caledonian Crow (Corvus moneduloides), the famous tool makers/users, talking.
A Rook (Corvus frugilegus)…I think it’s saying “It looks good.”
Common/Northern Raven (Corvus corax) saying, “Say nevermore!”, which cracks me up.
Here are a few non-Corvus also mimicking human speech:
A Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) saying his name and mumbling other things. Way too cute!
A Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) saying her name. (Please note that is is illegal to have a pet blue jay…or any native corvid…as a pet in the United States without federal permitting.)
Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) talking.
I think that probably covers a bit of the corvids, especially Corvus. No tongue splitting needed!