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Gifts of the Crow

How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans

Marzluff, John M.

(Book - 2012)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Gifts of the Crow
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CROWS ARE MISCHIEVOUS, playful, social, and passionate. They have brains that are huge for their body size and exhibit an avian kind of eloquence. They mate for life and associate with relatives and neighbors for years. And because they often live near people-in our gardens, parks, and cities-they are also keenly aware of our peculiarities, staying away from and even scolding anyone who threatens or harms them and quickly learning to recognize and approach those who care for and feed them, even giving them numerous, oddly touching gifts in return. With his extraordinary research on the intelligence and startling abilities of corvids-crows, ravens, and jays-scientist John Marzluff teams up with artist-naturalist Tony Angell to tell amazing stories of these brilliant birds in Gifts of the Crow. With narrative, diagrams, and gorgeous line drawings, they offer an in-depth look at these complex creatures and our shared behaviors. The ongoing connection between humans and crows-a cultural coevolution-has shaped both species for millions of years. And the characteristics of crows that allow this symbiotic relationship are language, delinquency, frolic, passion, wrath, risk-taking, and awareness-seven traits that humans find strangely familiar. Crows gather around their dead, warn of impending doom, recognize people, commit murder of other crows, lure fish and birds to their death, swill coffee, drink beer, turn on lights to stay warm, design and use tools, use cars as nutcrackers, windsurf and sled to play, and work in tandem to spray soft cheese out of a can. Their marvelous brains allow them to think, plan, and reconsider their actions. With its abundance of funny, awe-inspiring, and poignant stories, Gifts of the Crow portrays creatures who are nothing short of amazing. A testament to years of painstaking research and careful observation, this fully illustrated, riveting work is a thrilling look at one of nature's most wondrous creatures.
Publisher: New York : Free Press, 2012.
Edition: 1st Free Press hardcover ed.
ISBN: 9781439198735
143919873X
Characteristics: xiii, 287 p. :,ill. ;,24 cm.
Additional Contributors: Angell, Tony

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Sep 30, 2014
  • GuyN rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

binational looks down his nose a bit in his review, unnecessarily. Scientists will know to look for Marzluff's research in academic journals. Laymen will find more than enough cognitive science to chew on in this book in between the anecdotes and informal accounts of a few actual experiments. This book is both amusing and fascinating. It may well change the way you think about animal intelligence.

May 31, 2013
  • WVMLStaffPicks rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Bird researcher Marzluff and artist and nature writer Angell look at how crows and other similar birds think, learn and remember. It’s no wonder that crows feature so predominantly in our literature, language and culture. These fascinating birds have the ability to use tools, speak, play and even sky surf. Detailed scientific reasoning for their behaviours is included in each chapter. You will never look at crows the same way.

Sep 21, 2012
  • binational rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

Call this science "lite". The book is essentially a series of anecdotes gathered from all over - mostly from casual observers, not scientists. The anecdotes are amusing and illustrated with line drawings, but as any real scientist knows, anecdotes do not real science make. Between the anecdotes, the scientist author speculates about the neurological bases of crow intelligence. But again, these are mostly speculations, not well-established findings. Marzluff has a clear bias - he believes crows are almost as intelligent as humans, and more so than other intelligent animals, and one senses he marshalls the anecdotes to support that bias. On the other hand, it is by now clear that corvids are way more intelligent than previously supposed, along with parrots, elephants, pigs, apes, and cetaceans.

Sep 20, 2012
  • lisakenyon rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

This was a fascinating book. That said, I was more interested in the real life anecdotes about interactions with clever birds. The nitty gritty science got a little dry. This is a book I would buy.

Aug 09, 2012
  • bsevertsen rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Wonderful. But note, if you are looking for an autobiography with crow stories peppered in (ala Haupt's Crow Planet) you will be disappointed. This book is about the crows and is written in a concise scientific style.

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Sep 30, 2014
  • GuyN rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Kevin, a Missoulan, awoke early one morning to find outside a crow who was whistling and giving commands to his dog. The crow left but only to hang out at the U nearby. “Spring quarter was in session, and the talking crow was holding class on the university’s central green... Perched low on a branch of an oak tree, the crow called to its pupils—dogs of every breed, size, shape, and color… the crow had likely rallied them,… from nearby neighborhoods… But why?... When the school bell chimed and the students spilled into the Oval, heading to their next classes… (t)he crow took off low, only a few feet off the ground, with its devoted crowd of canines in noisy pursuit. In and out, the black corvine Pied Piper threaded a mayhem of canines through the students, creating confusion, wonder, and collision. When the students got to their classes, the dog-and-crow show stopped, and the bird again resumed lecturing from a low branch to its rapt class of dogs.”

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