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

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  907 Ratings  ·  168 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 ass
ebook, 304 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Free Press (first published May 22nd 2012)
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Lynne King
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 part of this
Nov 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 chapter
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?
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 a ...more
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/distu
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
“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
Feb 16, 2013 rated it liked it
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, he would enjo
SoManyBooks SoLittleTime (Aven Shore)
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 appreci ...more
Sara Van Dyck
Mar 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ryan Mishap
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 into the bird brain are w
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
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
Jan 03, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: serious, bookclub
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.
Alex Rochelle
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, birds
Science-heavy, which I really dig.
Nov 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 flights.

Woven am
Dec 04, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading the anecdotes and stories in this book; there were some really charming stories written about crows and ravens. I think I would've had that, "holy cow, crows are really smart and amazing!" reaction more if I read the book earlier -- by now, so many studies and experiments have been featured in the media, that I had heard about nearly all of them. That in itself is pretty cool though!

At times, the book got a little overly scientific for me -- just hard to read as a casual pleasu
Mar 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm fascinated by animals in general and crows in particular, and Marzluff and Angell - whom we're very lucky to have living and working among us here in Seattle - are really wonderful at bringing to light some of the incredibly intelligent and "human-like" (for lack of a better term) behaviors of corvids and giving some of the science and biology involved without just bogging you down in dry scientist-speak. To this layperson it seems like they've found a pretty good balance of science and comp ...more
Debbie Howell
Jan 08, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Gillian Permuy
Aug 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was excellent and the writing is well done. I saw a lot of negative comments regarding the language/jargon being too difficult. Yes, it can at times be challenging, but it is science; it can't be full of anecdotes or it would be a Mitch Albom book. I think it is great just as is. There are some anecdotes to give the reader's brain a rest at times and to introduce a new aspect and then the author gets into the neuro of corvids in each chapter tying it all together. There are a ...more
Whenever you see a crow or raven in the movies, you know some drama is about to go down -- but apparently that can be true in daily life too. Corvids like to play, give gifts, recognize death, murder other birds, and of course steal. A crow researcher and an artist -- there are a LOT of original drawings in the book, which argues against the Kindle edition -- explain a lot of these behaviors with recourse to brain physiology, co-evolution, and evolutionary psychology. Oddly enough, they go prett ...more
Dec 04, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved reading stories/anecdotes about the crows and ravens, and the scientific information was fascinating. But sometimes the way the author framed the stories within the scientific context made me feel frustrated - like he was discounting that species other than humans can have complex thoughts. It just seemed like humans being the pinnacle of intelligence was a forgone conclusion and it was a bit off-putting.

But ... on the other hand ... how can you not be happy about crow stories?
Nancy McKinley
Aug 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable and educational read. I have always been drawn to crows and have appreciated them from afar. They are highly intelligent birds which will remember the face of someone who has wronged them and that of a friend. Ravens, Crows and other Corvids have been known to use sticks as tools and to use pieces of bark to windsurf off cliffs. They are my kind of birds and I endeavor to befriend a few after reading this.
Dec 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Crows are smart as shown in this youtube video .
Aug 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Nisqually Wildlife Refuge
Corvids are freaking smart. And have culture. And tool using capacity. Respect.
Tracy Rowan
Oddly enough I'm in the perfect position to "eat crow" as the saying goes. I saw a number of reviews that suggested this book was uneven, that there was too much science, as one person put it, and I smugly laughed it off. I read a lot of science and I'm rarely put off by complexities.

Yeah this time? Not so much. The critics were spot on and I'm sorry I doubted them. The book is uneven with hunks of information about the neurobiology of crows and other corvids, none of which seems to be particula
Grace Phua
Curiosity level: Intriguing but a bit hard to follow

They have been called 'feathered apes'." - p.2

This book is mostly a scientific documentary in the form of a book, with many jaw-dropping encounters and stories of crows that continually defy our expectations of these notoriously famous (yet little understood) birds!

One hungry crow "ignores 10,000 faces but immediately recognises the woman who brings him food." Another plays pied piper as it lures a troop of dogs under a tree and lectures to the
Rohase Piercy
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing book, because it's written by a respected scientist who believes in the sentience and emotions of Corvids. There's a lot of technical detail about brain structure, neuro-transmitters, synapses etc which rather went over my head, but the anecdotes about Crows, Ravens & Magpies and their interactions with one another, with humans and with other species were fascinating. Apparently mammals (that's us) and birds (that's crows) come from a common reptilian ancestor, and our bra ...more
Deb Stransky
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. I read a lot of animal books , especially books about crows and ravens. They are very smart birds. They can even become pets, scold person if the bird has been wrong and, remember for years that this person had done something wrong to the to that crow. They are so smart that the crow (or raven) they can figure out complicated experiment faster than lab rats, dogs, any other animal tested. Great book!
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On The Nature of ...: February 2013 Book Discussion 1 3 Feb 07, 2013 08:46PM  
  • Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness
  • Corvus: A Life with Birds
  • Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle
  • Bird Sense: What It's Like to Be a Bird
  • The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong (with CD)
  • Bird Brains: The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies, and Jays
  • Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds
  • What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World
  • Birdology: Adventures with a Pack of Hens, a Peck of Pigeons, Cantankerous Crows, Fierce Falcons, Hip Hop Parrots, Baby Hummingbirds, and One Murderously Big Living Dinosaur
  • The Bedside Book of Birds: An Avian Miscellany
  • The Bird: A Natural History of Who Birds Are, Where They Came From & How They Live
  • The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds
  • Ravensong
  • The Parrot's Lament, and Other True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity
  • Illumination in the Flatwoods: A Season With The Wild Turkey
  • Wolves in the Land of Salmon
  • Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer & Build
  • Rat Island: Predators in Paradise and the World's Greatest Wildlife Rescue
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.
More about John M. Marzluff...
“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
“Natural selection is intolerant of idle verbosity.” 1 likes
More quotes…