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Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  1,400 ratings  ·  163 reviews
In Mind of the Raven, Bernd Heinrich, award - winning naturalist, finds himself dreaming of ravens and decides he must get to the truth about this animal reputed to be so intelligent.

Much like a sleuth, Heinrich involves us in his quest, letting one clue lead to the next. But as animals can only be spied on by getting quite close Heinrich adopts ravens, thereby becoming a
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Paperback, 380 pages
Published April 5th 2000 by Ecco Press (first published 1994)
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Mind of the Raven by Bernd HeinrichIn the Company of Crows and Ravens by John M. MarzluffCrow by Boria SaxCrow Planet by Lyanda Lynn HauptCity of Ravens by Boria Sax
Non-Fiction: Crows & Ravens
1st out of 23 books — 18 voters
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJongBeak of the Moon by Philip TempleOn Silent Wings by Don ConroyMind of the Raven by Bernd HeinrichThere's an Owl in the Shower by Jean Craighead George
Birds and Birding
4th out of 132 books — 4 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Petra X
Rewritten 18 Sept 2011

Fascinating things you learn in books that may save your life one day if you are stuck in the woods (or not).

Now I know how to climb a tree so tall that the branches don't even begin until 60-80 feet up.

1. Attach a fine monofilament line, anchored to the ground, to an arrow which you fire over the crown of the tree.

2. When the arrow is fired, standing in the original place, attach a much thicker line to the line you had fixed to the ground.

3. Go to where the arrow is now,
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Dan
Ravens and crows have a reputation for being smart. In this beautiful book, Heinrich asks if ravens act by carrying out a series of innate, programmed behaviors, or if they're capable of thinking, planning ahead, and emotion.

I picked this book up after seeing a particularly social raven taunt some tourists on Vancouver island. What a weird bird.

Each chapter is laid out as an experiment. Can ravens recognized individual humans? Heinrich approaches the ravens in his aviary in a Halloween mask, i
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Trilby
I got this book after spending a couple of summers on our land (now with cabin) in the North Woods. The ravens are omnipresent there, winter and summer. As I watched them wheel through the sky and heard their haunting cries, my curiosity about them was piqued.
This book far exceeded my expectations. Heinrich, a biologist by profession, presents insights into ravens' behavior garnered from his decade-long study of the wolf-birds. It was amazing the lengtbs that Heinrich would go to get a close g
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Tamhack
This was more of experiments with ravens. I did learn some interesting items of ravens and their characters.
"With ravens, the line between interpretation and fact is commonly a thin one, but as Mark Pavelka, who studied ravens for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, said, "With other animals you can usually throw out 90 percent of the stories you hear about them as exaggerations. With ravens, it's the opposite. No matter how strange or amazing the story, chances are pretty good that at
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Richard
While visiting the National Parks of Wyoming and Utah last year, I frequently spotted Mind of the Raven on the shelves in the parks' visitor center gift shops. After I returned home I found that I was still intrigued by the book and ordered myself a copy. Finally, a little more than a year later, I got around to reading it.

I have to say I had never given a lot of thought to ravens. I remember seeing some in a cage at the Tower of London back in 2000, and of course I'm familiar with Edgar Allan P
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Kevin
As a professor of biology at The University of Vermont its understandable that the author of this book ; Bernd Heinrich would want to write a detailed, specific, and scientific account of the mind of ravens; and he does just that throughout the book. But as a lover and admirer of ravens he also waxes poetic about them again and again. Blending the science with the myth and lore of ravens could have been a really good idea for a book but unfortunately, for me, the author didn't quite pull it off. ...more
Amy
I did enjoy this book, mostly for Heinrich's descriptions of specific ravens that he got to know as individuals, though after a point the stories and experiments felt repetitive and unmotivated. By the time the author reached the crux of the book, in which he describes an experiment that 'proves' ravens can act with intelligence, it felt like a bit of an anti-climax.
Keegan
Mind of the Raven, by Bernd Heinrich

A great scientific study of Ravens. The observations gave me a clear picture of the animal that played a crucial role in human history, inspired trickster myths, and stirred our collective imagination. I read this book along with Lewis Hyde's Trickster Makes this World, and they are excellent companions. Hyde's book is an excellent exploration of trickster mythology, but he does not credit the animals spirits themselves for enough inspiration and interplay th
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John
Bernd Heinrich is a naturalist, scientist, and writer with lyrical flair extraordinaire. In this book, he sets out to explore the life of the raven and raven society. With a series of engenious experiments, hours of observation, treks through the woods of northern Maine, using captured raven chicks raised to adult hood, and the ravens in the wild, Heinrich develops a profound insight into the world of the raven. He studies raven language, social heirarchy, methods and purposes of communication. ...more
Colleen
Heinrich was told by his major professor at UC Davis never to study some animal smarter that you are. Well, he did. Only by writing this book which is a series of anecdotes can you appreciate the breadth and depth of their intelligence. He stole young ravens from the nest and raised them in his aviary out in the woods of Maine by his cabin. He gave them new things to explore and tried to fool them in various ways, but they usually figured out whatever he was doing. The tales he tells are just sp ...more
Victoria
This book has sat on my shelves for a while, but after reading some interesting articles on the raven's relative, the crow, I thought that I would read more. While the Internet contains flashier anecdotes on these birds and their close relations, complete with video even, Heinrich's award-winning investigation is definitely more substantive. In a combination of personal observations across the globe, experiments and anecdotes of his own, Heinrich paints a fascinating portrait of this remarkable ...more
Patricia Devereux
Aug 10, 2008 Patricia Devereux rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in birds.
Heinrich has an amazing ability to present the secret lives of birds to laypeople, with few scientific pretensions.

But he never anthropomorphizes the ravens; instead, he sees them as the unique entities that they are, perfectly adapted to what nature demands of them. Yes, he loves his captive birds, but respects their "otherness," never seeing them as cunning little pets. Bravo!

Heinrich gives a very accurate, unromanticized look into the rigors of field observations, especially in harsh climate
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Rosalynde
My favorite naturalist!!! I've previously read _Summer World_ and _Winter World_--fantastic studies of animals' seasonal patterns and adaptations . . . Heinrich is richly curious and his writing is very accessible while being very thorough. Heinrich documents his observations of wild birds, but also documents raven behavior as he observed it using wild-caught chicks raised in his aviary. He is inventive and tireless in the objects he introduces them to to elicit reaction. He addresses the symbio ...more
Joy
I don't think I've ever read a more fleshed out and wonderful non-fiction book. I've read quite a few non-fiction books, but none that changed my view of something as much as this changed my view of the common raven. The book itself was a textbook for my Animal Behaviour course (a psychology course) and I honestly don't think the professor could've picked a better, more fitting book. It's not like a textbook, it's a novel. I'm not going to lie to you, I've never been a big fan of birds, but afte ...more
Katie M.
Jul 05, 2012 Katie M. rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: birders, natural history buffs,
Recommended to Katie by: my mom
Shelves: nonfiction
Mind of the Raven is an interesting exploration of a fascinating species. There are all sorts of cool anecdotes about raven behavior, both in captivity and the wild. I particularly enjoyed the exploration of the possibility of ravens having mutualistic relationships with predators like wolves and humans, where the ravens feed from the predators' kills and may direct the predators toward prey. The structure of the book wasn't terribly coherent. There were some places in the early to middle parts ...more
Sacha
This book was so disappointing after all the hype around it. The scientific "methods" made me so angry. The manipulations. The careless leaving of carcasses around the forest. The generalizations from single incidental observations.
This book is good for getting folks interested in a fascinating species. For getting people to look beyond themselves at another species. I just don't agree with the branding of these observations as full fledged research. One sample subject is not enough. Granted th
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Soozee
I appreciated the juicy tidbits and unique observations about Ravens this book had to offer but I'd prefer the author wrote with more help from his editor.
He writes like a scientist, which is to be expected, however it doesn't make for fluid reading.
In the final chapters, I felt he wrote defensively--like he had to prove that this text was worthy of respect in the scientific community.
I loved it and found it tedious all at the same time.
Claire
This book is a record of raven behavior from field observations in the wild and controlled studies in an aviary. Heinrich reports others’ studies along with his own and includes others’ single observations along with his own. In the "Afterword" he indicates his move beyond behavioral ecology. Heinrich, while acknowledging the benefit of controlled studies, also values the single anecdote. Both are used to raise new questions as well as to answer old ones, to challenge old theories and posit new ...more
Sherry (sethurner)
As a child I gravitated to nature books like The Last Auk, or One Day at Teton Marsh. Maybe growing up on a farm and having both wild and domestic pets fed my interest in birds and animals. Mind of the Raven is that sort of book, a well written, interesting look as some of the creatures in the natural world. It's hard not to be interested in Bernd Heinrich's anecdotes about his long time study of ravens, although there was more scientific detail in some chapters than I needed or wanted. So, I ju ...more
Jennifer Nelson
Having recently begun a fascination with ravens and crows, I found this book to be very interesting and enjoyable. Bernd Heinrich writes of his first-hand experiences with the "wolf birds," sharing his depth of knowledge with clarity and humor and also sharing his heart for these brilliant birds.

The downsides in this book are the abundance of facts and figures in certain parts that make for slightly dry reading and the infusion of Bernd Heinrich's evolutionary ideas. It is questionable how some
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Andrew Frueh
Heinrich is in many ways the Jane Goodall of the genus Corvus. There are also many similarities between his observations and the work of Temple Grandin on animal intelligence. Much like the two previously mentioned authors, his writing has the captivating quality of feeling more like a memoir than an ecology text. The reader feels almost as though they are by his side through his various investigations into raven behavior. In this work, Heinrich seems less interested drawing conclusions as he is ...more
Teri
I bought this book as an impulse buy from the 'Staff Recommendations' section of my favorite bookstore. I instantly regretted it because I don't have any particular interest in ravens, and it sat neglected on my bookshelf for years until I finally felt inspired to read it on a hiking trip... and WOW! I loved it!!

There are so many interesting stories about ravens, a bird I knew nothing about. But much more fascinating is the glimpse into the mind of Bernd Heinrich, the raven-obsessed author. And
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trina
Mar 03, 2011 trina rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nature nerds, nerds
i harbor a deep and abiding love for people who are passionate about really obscure things... another word for it might be 'nerdy' about things. bernd heinrich definitely fits that bill. here is a man so consumed with ravens that he wanders vermont roads early in the morning to snatch up the best roadkill to feed the neighborhood ravens, so fascinated by ravens that he sits in a blind for hours, knee-deep in snow, just to make a few observations. most people don't care that much about anything, ...more
Kirsten
This book, for some reason, took me ages to get through -- I think I started reading it in April! It was still very good, just quite dense, and a hard one to sit down and read for a long time because of all of the information contained within. Heinrich has made an exhaustive study of the habits and quirks of ravens. His biggest area of interest is the measure of their intelligence; much of what ravens do seems incredibly brilliant to humans, but how much of it is innate, how much of it is learne ...more
Alex
Most of the science writing the average reader consumes fits broadly into the category of "pop science." I'll confess that I've fallen into the same trap lately; instead of digging in and finding exhaustively researched books, I've been content to just read summaries and explanations on the web instead of going to the source.

Not that there's anything wrong with pop science, of course, but sometimes you want to stretch out and really learn something for a change. Mind of the Raven is the perfect
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Dan
This book provides a pretty thorough insight into the complexities of ravens' mental lives. It balances anecdotes, scientific findings, inference and speculation in such a way that the data often (but not always) support the casual observation and anthropomorphism, and the anecdotes color the data sets in a way that makes them more interesting and emotionally impactful. At times, Heinrich seems to rush to judgement in spite of ambiguous experimental results, and he spends too much (i.e. any) tim ...more
Sean Hansen
(view spoiler) ...more
Sue
This book was a gift to me from Alice Hallaran, biology teacher extraordinaire. I told Alice that I had become interested in the intelligence, or lack thereof, in birds - specifically crows. This book is written by a well-known and respected scientist and professor who has spent years studying ravens (a crow "cousin") in the wild and in captivity. It is a fascinating account of his developing relationship with these birds, especially two - Goliath,a raven he raised from a fledgling, and Whitefea ...more
Brynn
I had high expectations going into this book. As an amateur naturalist, and someone with degrees in wildlife biology and conservation I was already intrigued by ravens and hoped to learn more in depth about their behaviors and social structures. Instead, this book is simply a piecemeal, intricately detailing each of the author's individual experiments and observations of the birds over time with no overarching narrative to tie all the information together. Certainly, he is an authority on ravens ...more
Foxthyme
I want to LOVE this book. But as many reviewers say, it doesn't happen. The author should have had a ghost writer. If he did, it should have been a better one.

A note: There are things scientists do that the regular population doesn't do. If we did, we'd be obsessive compulsives or just plain weirdoes or likely in jail for animal torture. Books for the lay person need to be sensitive to these facts.

Even though I was raised in a scientific household, and I'm a hunter and fisherman, I was not thril
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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
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More about Bernd Heinrich...
Winter World Why We Run: A Natural History A Year In The Maine Woods Ravens in Winter Summer World: A Season of Bounty

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