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Bird Brains: The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies, and Jays

4.11  ·  Rating Details  ·  490 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
Birds have long been viewed as the archetypal featherbrains—beautiful but dumb. But according to naturalist Candace Savage, “bird brain,” as a pejorative expression, should be rendered obsolete by new research on the family of corvids: crows and their close relations.

The ancients who regarded these remarkable birds as oracles, bringers of wisdom, or agents of vengeance wer
Paperback, 144 pages
Published June 2nd 1997 by Greystone Books (first published 1995)
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Dec 18, 2012 Carol. rated it liked it
Recommends it for: beginning birders
Bird-brain is by no means an insult. When I happened upon this book at the library, I was delighted by the potential mix of one of my passions, animal intelligence, and positive PR for a widely maligned species. Alas, then, when I discovered this book was heavy on the pictures, light on the intelligence studies--none of the three studies most widely publicized studies I knew of concerning crow intelligence were mentioned.

Despite pretensions at erudition, this is clearly a coffee-table book. Bird

Corvidae, or corvids, is the scientific name for a group of birds which includes ravens, crows, jays, magpies, jackdaws, and rooks. When this book was published in 1995, "there were 103 species of these crow-like birds in the world, though only forty of them qualify as "true crows" (p. 4).

With 122 pages total, including a significant number of superb photographs of various corvids, this is a quick read and does a fine job of packing lots of facts into its pages. The photos of the vari
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
A must-read for anyone interested in birds, including younger folk. Easy to read but very informative.

I really liked this author's more recent book on crows, so I knew I had to read this one too. She has distilled information from many different sources into a very enjoyable, easily understood book. This is a great overview of various aspects of life as a member of the crow (Corvidae) family. It's full of beautiful full color photos from around the world. Some of these birds are so delicate and
Dec 29, 2008 Orion rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful summary of the latest findings and theories on Corvidae behavior and intelligence. I read the book because I wanted to find out why crows acted the way they do and have come away with a deep appreciation for this wonderful family of birds. In addition to the fabulous text, the book is filled with large, gorgeous pictures that are awesome. This must be read by anyone interested in birds.
Aug 26, 2014 Urszula rated it really liked it
Bardzo ładnie wydana książeczka popularnonaukowa, która zbiera skromne dane na temat inteligencji krukowatych. Napisana ostrożnie, bez antropomorfizacji, wskazująca na niewielki poziom wiedzy jakim dysponujemy na temat mentalnych zdolności tych zwierząt. Wydana w formie albumu ze zdjęciami świetnie nada się na prezent dla młodszych czytelników. Minusem są trochę przypadkowe zdjęcia (choć niektóre bardzo ładne), tym samym brak fotografii odnoszących się do opisywanych eksperymentów i czynności. S ...more
Apr 06, 2011 Rick rated it did not like it
Pretty Bird Picture Book for Bird Brains

The book was over written, reminding me of students padding book reports with sentences to achieve a required length of an assignment. It relies heavily on conjecture and offers little if any conviction. Take this quotation found near the end of the book which starts with a firm grip of the obvious,
"Over the millennia, each species of corvid has developed the mental abilities it needed to meet life's challenges”,
and continues with the author’s unsupporte
Candace Savage has written two books about crows, and I cannot say have been really impressed with either book. I found this specific book to have a lot of filler without a lot of substance. This book does have a lot of nice pictures.

If you actually want to learn something about crows, check out a book called In the Company of Crows and Ravens.
Dec 08, 2015 Diane rated it really liked it
This was another coffee table book I picked up at the library. It turned out to be a enlightening book about the corvids, their intelligence, personalities, and behaviors. Loved it. Loved the beautiful pictures. Love the occasional magpies and crows that visit my yard. Since reading this book, I'll be more attuned to their behavior, and watch for signs of their great intelligence.
Dec 07, 2014 Kate rated it really liked it
"Birds have long been considered the archetypal featherheads, beautiful but dumb. Members of the crow family (corvids), however, appear to have powers of abstraction, memory, and creativity that put them on a par with many mammals -- even higher primates. Bird Brains present these bright, brassy, and surprisingly colorful birds in a remarkable collection of full-color, close-up photographs by more than two dozen of the world's best wildlife photographers."
~~back cover

A cross between a coffee tab
Apr 17, 2016 Carry rated it really liked it
This book was a pleasure to read. It read fluently, and everything was explained clearly. The book was enriched with beautiful pictures and funny ancedotes/stories. From page one right up until the end the book captured my interested, and I was a little disappointed there wasn't more. While I have learnt quite a bit about these clever birds, I'm still left wanting more. Maybe because I have found corvids fascinating for a very long time, or perhaps the book didn't dive enough into specifics and ...more
May 13, 2016 Jackie rated it liked it
I have read quite a few books on bird behavior. This one is a good overview for the uninitiated, and has great photos. I liked the inclusion of some of the myths about various corvids. Mankind has been fascinated with their intelligence for a long time.
Jun 28, 2015 Allison rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful photography book focused on the northern hemisphere corvids with some good information about this intelligent bird family. It isn't long or detailed, but still worth the read.
Ryan Mishap
Feb 05, 2009 Ryan Mishap rated it really liked it
A look at the intelligence of corvids the subtitle promised, but this isn’t an academic work: published by Sierra Club Books, this is filled with gorgeous photos of everybody’s favorite birds. The text mainly concerns itself with referencing studies, observations, and anecdotal stories to suggest that corvids have intelligence. The most valuable aspect of this book is its argument against a mechanistic view of animals as instinctual automatons. Most of us know animals are beings, but science ha ...more
Mar 29, 2016 Woody rated it really liked it
A coffee-table book complete with stunning photos and informative text about the Corvid family in North America and Europe.
Apr 22, 2014 KatieSuzanne rated it really liked it
Some very light science reading with pictures. Not kid stuff, but not scientific journal type stuff either.
Aug 24, 2014 Nina rated it really liked it
I liked it, but was looking for more in-depth information. Wonderful pictures!
May 30, 2015 Mark marked it as to-read
Saw at Paulina Springs books (Sisters) 29 May 2015
Oct 19, 2012 Katey rated it it was ok
It's more or less a coffee table book. Really not too much in-depth information and wide page margins, big font, and generous line spacing. It was published in 1995, so it lacks much of the more interesting data about corvids that is more recent. The pictures are nice and all, but I'd rather have a book with more substance, and skimming info about the whole family corvidae made it a little scattered.
Sep 01, 2011 Cheri rated it liked it
Recommended to Cheri by: John Ellerton
Interesting information, more amazing photography choices like the other book I read of hers recently. Kind of wanted more in-depth. Good and worthwhile read overall. If I had started with her books, rather than reading Marzluff himself, I probably would have enjoyed them more. It's hard to go back to the basics, so to speak, and read someone who's citing someone you've already read a lot from.
David R.
Jul 04, 2013 David R. rated it liked it
Light reading on the Corvids. This one is definitely more of an introduction to the subject as opposed to a deep and insightful account of behavior. Put another way, there is a very high photo-to-text ratio and I put the book away in less than ninety minutes. The photos are wonderful, by the way.
Sep 10, 2009 Jennifer rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-nf
I find crows very interesting, they are smart and have personalities and appear to like jokes. I learned a few new things about them in this book BUT I do not really care about looking at pictures of them and this is a lot of admittedly beautiful photos I just can’t be bothered with that sort of thing.
Jun 02, 2012 Sher rated it really liked it
Book 35 2012 Reading Challenge
Terrific full page illustrations of corvids around the world. I enjoyed seeing birds from other parts of the world: green jays, Siberian Jays, Gray Jays, Eurasian Jay...
The text is a mix of scientific findings and personal anecdotes from people who have had captive corvids.
Sep 24, 2011 Penny rated it liked it
This book has absolutely gorgeous photos of the class of birds called "Corvids" which encompasses; ravens, crows, jays, magpies and nutcrackers. Lots of info. about research on these birds intelligence etc. But, mostly the photos were what the book was about.
Kevin Driskill
Oct 16, 2015 Kevin Driskill rated it liked it
Shelves: zoology
This is a great starter book. It is an easy read and covers many topics in an overview style. Stunning photography, poetry, legend, mythology, stories and science combine to make a fascinating glimpse of a remarkable group of birds.
Nov 02, 2009 Justwinter marked it as to-read
Shelves: animals, nature
I've heard this book is about 50% photographs of these beautiful birds--and a little light on information.

I'm hoping it'll be half as good as Extraordinary Pigeons, a book I boorishly force upon my friends as circumstance allows.
May 04, 2015 Tim rated it really liked it
Shelves: natural-science
Crows may be annoying, but they're part of a very intelligent family of birds. This book is a pleasurable presentation of the bird's behavior and appearance through story, scientific study, and photography.
Jan 31, 2009 Kristine rated it really liked it
I didn't expect this book to be so slender. It's more of a coffee table book with excellent pictures.

I think it would hard to write a bad book about corvids as they're so intelligent and entertaining.
Mar 11, 2016 Jess rated it liked it
Shelves: wildnerness
I thought this was interesting because it covered other corvid species besides crows and ravens, including jays, magpies, and nutcrackers. It has some lovely photography as well.
Livia Stone
Oct 13, 2007 Livia Stone rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Very easy reading, great for people who don't know anything about corvids. A nice gift. More of a coffee table book than something to read, though. 4 stars for the amazing photos.
Sherry (sethurner)
the book is fine, a good general introduction to these birds. The writing is lively, if general, and the photography is very beautiful, and takes up lots of the pages.
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