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

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  382 ratings  ·  40 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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Mind of the Raven by Bernd HeinrichIn the Company of Crows and Ravens by John M. MarzluffCrows by Candace SavageCrow by Boria SaxCrow Planet by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
Non-Fiction: Crows & Ravens
9th out of 21 books — 19 voters
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Books that just have cool titles
52nd out of 274 books — 86 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,432)
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Dec 18, 2012 Carol. rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
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
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.
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
Rick Miller
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.
"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
Ryan Mishap
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
Some very light science reading with pictures. Not kid stuff, but not scientific journal type stuff either.
I liked it, but was looking for more in-depth information. Wonderful pictures!
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 3 of 5 stars
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Livia Stone
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.
Gain a new respect for the corvids -- crows, ravens, magpies, and jays -- these super-intelligent birds -- beautiful photographs accompany the well written text
Dec 02, 2014 Mandy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: birds
not too advanced. not too dumbed down. lots of beautiful pictures. a few interesting things I didn't know already. awkward to hold due to large shape.
Jun 03, 2013 Amelia marked it as to-read
I registered a book at!
May 01, 2008 Christine rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: bird lovers
Great photos accompanied by informative text. Crows, ravens, magpies and jay often don't get the honor they deserve. Fascinating detail about them.
This a well-researched and visually beautiful book that urges us to think more openly about the depth and quality of corvid intelligence.
Dec 15, 2008 Gentlyferal rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: homeschooling families
Shelves: science
A lovely picture book for grownups. Not a technical book at all, would make a lovely supplemental book for homeschooling families.
Ned Stenger White
not much more than a pretty picture book, lacking any substance for someone seeking real information about the corvidae.
Found this on the stacks at my library. Great photography and good information. Somewhat simplistic and mostly accurate
Writing was better than expected. Great info. Being a pseudo-coffee table book was disappointed by some of the pictures.
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