Scott's Reviews > Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans

Gifts of the Crow by John M. Marzluff
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's review
Aug 24, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: nonfiction, 2012
Read from August 06 to 22, 2012 , read count: 1

Although the writing wasn't always first-rate, I enjoyed this book. It opened my eyes to a topic I knew little about, and I'm struck by how much research has been done on the various components of the avian brain. The references listed at the back of the book provide a virtual treasure trove of information for anyone wanting to dig deeper into the topic of corvid behavior and intelligence.

The book made me want to read more about crows and to take notes, either written or by recorded memos on my iPhone, regarding my attempts to feed crows at my workplace in Wayne, PA.

Regarding the prose, I got the sense that John Marzluff is not a particularly strong writer. You can see this from time to time in awkward sentences that could have used more copyediting. Another problem is that the book contains lots of anecdotes, some of them just a sentence or two in length, which occasionally results in a "string of beads" prose style.

The best sections of the book are the descriptions of the workings and structure of the avian brain and the descriptions of the curious habit of gift-giving by corvids to humans (hence, the book's title). In a moment of insight and elegance, Marzluff circles back to this corvid trait in the closing paragraph of the book: "Our realization that the nature we often take for granted includes animals that think and dream, fight and play, reason and take risks, emote and intuit may be the greatest modern gift of the crow."

Note to self: Must see Grip, Charles Dickens's pet raven, which apparently is at the Free Library in Philadelphia (Rare Book Dept, 3rd floor).
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