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Ravens in Winter

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  623 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
Why should ravens--which are usually solitary birds--share valuable food in the dead of winter? How clever are these birds? Do they have a language? These are some of the riddles that noted sociobiologist Bernd Heinrich, author of Bumblebee Economics and winner of the John Burroughs Medal, explores in this intriguing book. 16 pages of drawings.
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 1st 1991 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1989)
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Mind of the Raven by Bernd HeinrichIn the Company of Crows and Ravens by John M. MarzluffCrows by Candace SavageCrow by Boria SaxCorvus by Esther Woolfson
Non-Fiction: Crows & Ravens
8th out of 14 books — 21 voters
The Big Year by Mark ObmascikKingbird Highway by Kenn KaufmanThe Sibley Guide to Birds by David Allen SibleyThe Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill by Mark BittnerMind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich
For the Love of Birds
33rd out of 149 books — 31 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,470)
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Jul 31, 2010 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, biology
The author starts with reports that he has heard, that ravens share their food. And he wonders, "why?" Why, indeed. He formulates dozens of hypotheses that could explain this sharing. And yet, he is not even sure whether or not they truly do share their food.

So the author begins a long, painstaking process of experiments and observations of ravens in the wild. In the wintertime, when it is often below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Even in blizzards! His experiments are carefully conducted, and he slowly
May 28, 2016 Bfisher rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
A confession - I was first drawn to this book by the images the title conveyed - the black bird in the white landscape, the living animal in the dead world.

This book is a wonderful description of a scientist's investigation of animal behavior in the wild.
Kirk Johnson
Aug 26, 2015 Kirk Johnson rated it it was amazing
i've come to the conclusion that one should read at least one bernd heinrich book every year, and should always have an unread heinrich book around just in case.. the calming naturalist and his musings always put me in a good place. this book on the surface has no right to be so intriguing, as it is mainly journal entries regarding his experiments on ravens and involves a great deal of hiding in trees and blinds in the Maine snow waiting for something to happen. that he makes this all wonderful ...more
My fifth book for 2016.

I read this book more than ten years ago, while recovering one winter from a major knee injury. I loved the book. Not only does it focus on ravens, but it also very nicely lays out the nature of scientific process.

I was surprised re-reading it that I had a little trouble finishing it. I love Heinrich as a writer, but this definitely shows as one of his earlier books. It's repetitive. It lacks some of lyricism of his later books. Recommended instead would be his superior M
Mar 10, 2014 Joann rated it really liked it
A wonderful book. I first became interested in ravens when one 'adopted' us at our home in the Santa Monica Mountains in southern California, very far from the frozen Maine woods, making a clumsy landing outside our house.

He had been a captive bird as there was a remnant of a jess about one leg and he seemed quite tame. Without accounting the story of 'Black Boy's summer with us, he was an engaging, freewheeling companion who never stopped surprising us with his antics and aptitude for play, in
Juli Anna Herndon
Dec 17, 2015 Juli Anna Herndon rated it liked it
Shelves: natural-history
This was an interesting study in animal behavior; ravens are the coolest! That said, this is an early work for Heinrich, and it read that way. Stylistically, the writing could use quite a bit of editing, and much of the book lacks the lyricism of his later works. By nature, it is repetitive and somewhat boring, but only in the way that observing wildlife always is. I enjoyed reading this, but I wouldn't recommend it to just anyone.
Christina Sanantonio
Jul 03, 2012 Christina Sanantonio rated it really liked it

Paul Haspel
Jan 28, 2012 Paul Haspel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: winter, ravens
The raven is a fascinating bird. It plays an important role in the Bible (Noah sent out a raven before he sent out a dove), it appears in different cultural traditions from Norse myth to Native American folklore, and it inspired one of the greatest American poems, Edgar Allan Poe's “The Raven.” In Ravens in Winter, Bernd Heinrich describes how he left his teaching position at the University of Vermont, repeatedly trekked to a remote Maine forest, and sought to draw scientific conclusions regardi ...more
Jul 23, 2010 Scott rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-tech
The author of this book provides an important (and much-needed) view into the scientific process. Many of us might have an idea about how a laboratory scientist works, but how can someone come up with scientifically-based understanding of animal behavior? Bernd Heinrich takes us along as he spends the first four winters of an ongoing project observing recruiting behavior among ravens. Who knew at the outset that our intrepid scientist would have to cruise slaughterhouses for hundreds of pounds o ...more
Jan 06, 2008 Joanna rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature
I've had this book sitting on my shelf for a long time. I actually started to read it a couple of years ago but got distracted, put it down and never picked it back up. Roll forward to the day I'm running out to the door to the train (on my way to a less than loved job) and saw this book on the shelf. So I grabbed it and am very, very happy I did so because it is one of the best--fiction or non-fiction-- I've read in quite awhile.

Written by a biologist in the 80's it is an interesting study of
After reading Ravens in the Winter, I find myself frequently stopping to watch the skies whenever I hear the ravens cry to see what they are up to. I never really paid attention before and thought ravens and crows were the same bird like a ground hog is also called a woodchuck. Honestly I found the book too dry and scientific until the last summary chapter where his observations yielded data and it was an exciting "AHA!" moment for me. My recommendation to anyone reading this book who is finding ...more
Ellen Behrens
May 23, 2016 Ellen Behrens rated it really liked it
A fascinating look into what makes ravens tick (or hop, which is what we usually see them doing). We read this one after "Mind of the Raven," which was even more amazing. "Ravens in Winter" documents how Bernd Heinrich began his research and its early years; "Mind of the Raven" picks up his later work, when he sets up more structured experiments. Both tell us what we all sense, every time we see those amazing black birds fly overhead: there's a lot going on with these birds. Start with "Ravens i ...more
Dave N
Jun 28, 2016 Dave N rated it really liked it
Heinrich's love of ravens comes through and makes what would otherwise be a fairly uneventful story a completely enthralling tale, akin almost to a fantasy epic or a hard-boiled detective story. While some of the minutiae can bog down the flow of the storytelling, overall the book moves very quickly.
Jun 08, 2015 Jack rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A beautiful example of the scientific method. Ignoring the fascinating subject, this lays bare HOW the human process of curiosity, inspiration, investigation, hypothesis and experiment come together.
Feb 05, 2016 Tim rated it liked it
It's a little dry but still worth reading. He's a scientist, not a novelist and this is really an extended research paper and reads like one at times (most of the time). I'd recommend it to those interested in nature research and/or Corvids.
David R.
Oct 01, 2012 David R. rated it liked it
Professor Henrich conducted a four-year field study of raven behavior in Maine during winters in the mid-1980s. This book is a recounting of the day-to-day discoveries. The information content is very high, if irregularly systematic, but so is the repetitive nature of the logbook. In little time the narrative is an eyeglazing contiuum of cold observation conditions, dead animals used as bait, and ravens picking at carcasses and making various and sundry calls. It has also been some years since t ...more
Mar 03, 2011 Colleen rated it did not like it
Ugh, really really REALLY wanted to like this book!! My 2nd Bernd Heinrich book and sadly, this one was no better than the other one I read. He just focuses way too much on tiny details and not on the bigger picture, and I really wanted to read this book to learn about what types of birds ravens are... not hear about how he sat in a hunting cabin in Maine for hours and watched them fly over a carcass and pass him by. After 100 pages of waiting for it to get better, I gave up. Read like a scienti ...more
Peter Cadoret
This is an excellent book for those interested in ravens! OMG what a wonderful read.
May 13, 2015 Billy rated it really liked it
This is my third Bernd Heinrich book and it's my favorite so far. Ravens in Winter showcases Heinrich's intensity, passion and drive to understand the natural world. He is a unique character. Years of observations under harsh conditions allow Heinrich to tease out the complexities of survival strategies of these amazing, intelligent birds.
Matthew Beck
Dec 07, 2014 Matthew Beck rated it really liked it
It's hard to be objective about a book one reads with a book light, in fits and starts while in bed, but this was compelling enough to finish. I don't think I'll ever forget the image of the author curling up to sleep with a dead deer in his cabin (to protect it from coyotes). Or climbing a slim tree in a blizzard to observe ravens feeding. A bit dry at times, but full of great stories. Excellent company for late fall or winter nights.
Dan Wilson
Nov 30, 2014 Dan Wilson rated it it was amazing
Phenomenal. This book taught me to love ravens.
Dec 23, 2014 Brenda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Man, what we go through to learn!
Mar 11, 2016 k rated it it was ok
Lord, i was so happy to finish this book. Full of interesting little bits, and extensively repetitive and dry scientific research. The cover might be one of my favorite things. (eek!)

I do appreciate Heinrich's passion. Found his first book was enjoyable, there are many more on the to read list.
Aug 17, 2010 Sandra rated it liked it
Shelves: science
The book is a little gem for delineating the drudgery, the determination, and the rigor involved in doing this kind of field research. The author had to overcome so much confusion and frustration, and it was his ability to consider other methodologies and competing hypotheses, that--in the end--saved him and the project. I came away with enormous respect for this man and for what he accomplished. His love for his subjects and for the beautiful country he so lovingly described was inspiring.
Eric Bingham
Dec 29, 2010 Eric Bingham rated it liked it
This book was a GREAT look into the scientific method being used to solve a specific question. The author does a great job of giving a very detailed look into how he designs and tests different hypothesi, and how research is done. It did get a little too detailed in some spots, and tended to drag a bit. It became highly repetitious in other spots (I guess there's only so much that one guy can say about winter...) It did increase my intrest in and respect for this bird though.
Nov 11, 2008 Nancy rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I work with scientists but never understood the drive that causes them to research. Ravens in Winter really draws you into the whole thought process of how a research identifies his subject, how he slowly gathers the evidence and then presents. The outcome of this book is not the interesting part rather it's Heinrich trial and error method of tracking down the information that is so fascinating.
Dec 21, 2008 Krista rated it liked it
I am always disappointed by Heinrich's books (Animals in Winter). I like the subject matter, but this book especially reads like a journal. It is interesting to see the development of his research, but a little boring as well. I guess I was hoping for a more comprehensive look a ravens and not just focusing on their feeding/recruitment habits. Still good, just not as good as I was hoping.
Oct 12, 2009 Hayden rated it really liked it
A very good book, if you're a biology nerd. I'm not even a true biology nerd, but I enjoyed this book immensely. My ex-girlfriend refuses to return this book despite my repeated requests, so I think that is also another vote of support for this book. The Mind of the Raven however is my preferred tome on this subject and bird, also written by the same author.
Nita Galambos
It was an interesting read but it was very repetitive. It seemed like the book was written to appease his fellow scientists. While this goal is sensible, it felt like he could have achieved that end and still kept the text more interesting for laymen/women. Still, where it's good it's really good. At times Heinrich's prose is astonishingly beautiful.
Jun 25, 2008 Katharine rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Another favorite natural history book. It took me a little longer to warm up to this one--at first the issues seemed pointless-- but who couldn't fall in love with an author who will get up before dawn and stand in the top of a pine tree in a blizzard, waiting to see from which direction the ravens will come?
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Bernd Heinrich was born in Germany (April 19, 1940) and moved to Wilton, Maine as a child. He studied at the University of Maine and UCLA and is Professor Emeriti of Biology at the University of Vermont.

He is the author of many books including Winter World, Ravens in Winter, Mind of the Raven and Why We Run. Many of his books focus on the natural world just outside the cabin door.

Heinrich has wo
More about Bernd Heinrich...

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