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Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,213 ratings  ·  210 reviews
Stan Coren’s groundbreaking The Intelligence of Dogs meets Bernd Heinrich’s classic Mind of the Raven in this astonishing, beautifully illustrated look at the uncanny intelligence and emotions of crows.

CROWS ARE MISCHIEVOUS, playful, social, and passionate. They have brains that are huge for their body size and exhibit an avian kind of eloquence. They mate for life and associate
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Simon & Schuster (first published May 22nd 2012)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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Lynne King
Oct 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I live in the foothills of the Pyrenean mountain range in the Pays Basque (evidently in English it is the Basque Country which doesn’t do it justice) in south-west France. This is an area of outstanding beauty that I will never tire of. I get no greater pleasure than sitting on my terrace either on my own, or with friends or with my Labrador Chloé drinking a cup of tea, coffee or a glass of wine, purely reflecting and basking in all of this exquisite landscape.

Crows make up a large p
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
3.5 stars
Do you think Good Reads will ever give us the half-star option, or should I just kill myself now?
Nov 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not just an updated In the Company of Crows and Ravens; read both if you're as fascinated as I am. Otoh, if you want to choose one, choose this, as it is newer and incorporates new knowledge and studies.

This has less on cultural co-evolution, and fewer pictures. It also has more skepticism and less mysticism. And more anatomy & hard science (which I admit I read lightly), including appendices. If you want to read a sample before bringing it home from store or library, I recommend the ch
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book definitely has more neuroscience and anatomy than the authors' previous book, In the Company of Crows and Ravens, but it's still easily understood by a layperson (me). I find it more interesting that all these observations and anecdotes about behaviour in corvids are backed up with explanations, where there currently are any. I also notice and appreciate that the previously held view in animal ethology and biology, the one where anything even remotely seeming like that grave "sin" of anthropo ...more
Jan 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
I love crows. These guys pound the science pavement to back up what we know anecdotally - corvids are smart, scary smart - and give proofs for how and why their brains function remarkably similar to ours.

I like it when writers give shape and vocabulary to something I vaguely “know” or believe: we human species are not “at the top” of anything. Our accomplishments don’t prove that we are “greater” in any way. Just different. Lots of other species have forms of intelligence that we can’t apprecia
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Parrots and the corvid family of crows, ravens, and jays are considered the most intelligent of birds. I never thought I would be such a fan of crows until I read "Gifts of the Crow" by John M. Marzluff, a professor of wildlife science at the University of Washington. Crows mate for life, they help feed their younger siblings and they are very smart. They are considered very social and have their own dialects!
Who knew? If you feed crows long enough they recognize your face and if you hurt
Oct 29, 2016 rated it liked it
For the first half, I read this book at normal speed and then just exactly in the middle I started to scan and speed read. I read certain behavioral sections entirely. Other physiological neuron path and brain form network, I did not read the entire text, just studied the graphics. If you are looking for a book about Crows as pets, Crows' owners long term experiences and other Crow /human interaction first person accounts as witness? You will find far, far more of the dense brain function and an ...more
Gary Brecht
Jan 01, 2013 rated it liked it
“I thought you might find this interesting,” was the comment my librarian wife made as she plunked the book on our kitchen table. It was certainly a book I might not have picked for myself, but ever since I’d acquired a mystical relationship with crows (I refer to them as “my brothers”) I’ve gained a reputation for being able to call them in due to my skill at imitating their calls. One time in Wisconsin I was able to lure in several outside a restaurant and they swarmed noisily overhead in resp ...more
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Because this was published in 2012, I was worried it wouldn't be that great since it wouldn't include all of the incredible studies conducted on crows since then. Though I would love for him to put out an updated version of this book, with the new studies included, this 2012 book felt new and satiating. Crows and ravens engage in such surprising and complex behaviors. In this book you will find a neuroscientific explanation for things such as why birds' speech patterns result in mimicry instead ...more
Here is where they lost me: In the last chapter, there is a line that goes something like "Many young injured and orphaned corvids that are taken to wildlife rehabilitators are euthanized because the rehabilitators aren't able to care for them and it is illegal to give them to families that would like to adopt them. We believe that select folks should be able to keep American Crows as pets as long as it is closely regulated. Isn't keeping a crow as a pet better than it dying?" (This is not a dir ...more
Feb 16, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I grew up in middle Georgia where there were many pine trees with birds and squirrels living in these trees. My daddy kept a bag of pecans in the trunk of his car. Every day, he came home from work, whistled, and the birds and squirrels came flying and scampering to him for a free dinner. Some took food from his hands.

One bird my dad did not like was the blue jay. If he saw them eating in the back yard, he would bang on the window trying to scare them off. I wish he was living now, h
Larry Bassett
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Larry by: Carol Lewis
Shelves: nonfiction, audio
The authors love crows and have spent many years studying them. My attraction to crows is in the past and I sadly currently live without crow experiences in my daily life. So I was looking for a book that might replace some of what I am missing. This book satisfy that need a bit but not nearly as much as I was hoping. From the beginning to the end the book focuses on how chemicals in the brain make things happen for people and crows. A little bit of that goes along way for me. I am not sure I wo ...more
Sara Van Dyck
Mar 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Super blend of science, neuroscience, and anecdote. Besides the fascination and charm of the crows themselves, what I especially admire about this book is the way Marzluff presents a model for the way a good scientist can investigate a subject which might seem speculative. He presents a behavior, often an observed incident, and lists possible explanations for this behavior. Instead of pre-judging them, he considers each in turn, looking at how likely it is considering other evidence and explanat ...more
Debbie Howell
Jan 08, 2014 rated it did not like it
For what it's worth, I learned a lot about crows and found the anecdotes about crow behavior interesting. For me, there was too much detail about how a crow's brain works. Actual quote: "Neural signals leaving the nidopallium go to the lower, rear portion of the forebrain, the arcopallium, which ushers electrical commands down independent, parallel circuits through the thalamus, midbrain, and hindbrain nuclei to muscle fibers whose actions create behavior." I enjoy books about the human brain, b ...more
Ryan Mishap
Aug 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Corvids rule.

Oh, the book, right. Those looking merely for anecdotes about the shenanigans of corvids might want to pass this one by, for, although those little stories are here in abundance, this is also a serious scientific book using current neuroscience to explain corvids complex behaviors and unparallelled intelligence. How quickly we move from a crow pulling a turkey's tail to dopamine and k-receptors!

For those that enjoy the science or can persevere, the insights i
Jan 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: bookclub, serious
When I picked up this book I wasn't expecting so much brain chemistry to be in it. Though interesting at first, it became more like filler as the book went on since a lot of it was things that "we believe" instead of things that "we know." The first few chapters were a little brain psychology heavy but I enjoyed the anecdotes that were told through the book.
Aug 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is really a textbook about the mental processes that occur in a birds brain as it thinks and remembers, however it often reads like popular literature. Marzluff has filled his book with intriguing anecdotes about the antics of crows, ravens and jays (corvids) to give us a glimpse into the mental life of these astute creatures. It is a little bit humbling to learn how much they have in common with us. In many ways these birds are as intelligent as we are (tool use and creation, reasoning to ...more
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wanted to learn more about the intelligence of crows and this book obliged. While heavy in neuroscience, there were a lot of great anecdotes from the researcher's/writer's experience and people he had contact with. The book takes a scientific approach and I thought was mostly realistic about it's conclusions. It's a short read, as it's only a little over 200 pages, with the rest being references, notes, and the index.

In short, corvids are one of the more intelligent creatures on the planet. T
Harris Schwartzreich
Apr 25, 2019 rated it did not like it
The authors sound like very smart dudes doing interesting research, but this book put me to sleep worse than a high school biology textbook. Instead of telling interesting crow stories or explaining challenging concepts relating to intelligence and consciousness, they spend the book laundry-listing all the different neurochemicals and the lobes of the brain, and constantly fall back on Darwinian essentialism to explain everything crows do. Yes, everything all animals do can be described as evolu ...more
Alex Rochelle
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is obviously intended for somebody with strong interests in birds and avian intelligence. As that sort of person, I did find the book interesting, and enjoyed all of the examples of corvids proving their intelligence. Unfortunately, the book was more scientifically written than I had expected, so I did not get as much out of it because of the references to brains that I did not take enough science classes to understand. It also seemed intended specifically for adult scientists, because ...more
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology, biology
A surprising gem of a book. I did not know what to expect as I opened this one, but I was delighted to find that it covers many interesting scientific fields without overstaying its welcome and becoming dry. I have read several non-fiction books that either go into too much detail and become dry, or they lean too much toward superficial popular science to be really educational or truly interesting. This book straddles that fine balance perfectly.

The stories involving crows and their
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a very interesting read! I love how the author described how crows can impact our lives. Not only are they really smart, but they’re also curious about the world. If you are looking for a book about crows, or a friendship with an animal, this is the book for you! 😊
Giselle Bernstein
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'll never look at a jay, crow, or raven the same way. Stories about this family of birds is fascinating and adds to the literature that we humans are not the only thinkers on this planet.
This was lovely. *quietly adds have a pet crow to list of illegal things I'd like to do*
Becky Loader
Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Now I know why I have always liked corvids. ;-)
Mar 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Listened to this one, and it was great in a lot of ways. Definitely made me look at corvids more carefully, even with all the other reading I've done about them. Heavier on the avian neurology than I've read in other books on the topic, which was interesting, and largely very well explained.
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, birds
Science-heavy, which I really dig.
Eric Lawton
Oct 11, 2018 rated it liked it
A bit disappointing. Inconsistent so some parts were good, others infuriating.

It was really interesting to find out how smart and social the crow family are.

I found the more scientific parts (experiments and observations) the best, because that way I knew how much weight to attach to the claims. The anecdotes were also very interesting and there were enough to support many of their points.

The annoying parts were all the speculative parts, e.g. "We suspect that
Nov 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
OK, so I started out interested in animal intelligence and had heard the author talk about the book a while back. I was primed to like it, and I did.

Of course I enjoyed the stories most. Crows and their relative corvids are fascinating as they solve problems, make tools, and recognize people. In fact, with mirror experiments, there is even the possibility of self recognition! ETA: One fascinating fact: Birds can sleep one brain hemisphere at a time. Helps on those long migration flig
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On The Nature of ...: February 2013 Book Discussion 1 3 Feb 07, 2013 08:46PM  

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John Marzluff is assistant professor of wildlife science in the Ecosystem Science and Conservation Division at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is the author of Dog Days, Raven Nights, Urban Ecology, and In the Company of Crows and Ravens.
“Our words have no inherent meaning to a corvid; they are arbitrary, but the natural communication system of these birds also involves arbitrary symbols (calls) that refer to specific objects and actions in their world.” 2 likes
“The acute attention that ravens pay to our subtle signals underscores the degree to which they can draw conclusions from our body language. They perceive our intentions even though we may not be consciously aware of them.” 1 likes
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