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

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  544 ratings  ·  114 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. New research indicates that crows are among the brightest animals in the world. And professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington John Marzluff has done som ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 5th 2013 by Atria Books (first published May 22nd 2012)
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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?
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
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
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
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
Alex Rochelle
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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.
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
Sara Van Dyck
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
Stacey Remick-Simkins
This book vindicates me finally. I have known that animals have rich social and emotional lives since I was a child. Science is finally proving it.
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
Nancy McKinley
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.
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
Gillian Permuy
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
Mike Gowan
Feb 10, 2014 Mike Gowan added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: friends
Recommended to Mike by: author
I got this book when the author gave a lecture at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and then read it over the next week. The information in the book expands on the material he presents in his talk and having the book cements it.

I'd read and heard about crows social behavior and communications before this but there are lots of great anecdotes in the book about how smart they are, so the book is worth getting just for that.

I hadn't known about the gift-giving behavior of crows but I think th
Pierre Lauzon
Gifts of the Crow is a well-constructed and superbly illustrated book on a bird that has co-evolved with humanity for thousands of years. The book discusses how intelligent corvids are, adapting to changes in environment and reading the actions and intentions of humans and other animals.

I recently heard John Marzluff at a presentation on his newest book, Welcome to Subirdia, where he discussed the adaptability of birds to urban and suburban environments and the presentation prompted me to get Gi
Debbie Howell
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
N.D. Hendrix
This book is at its best when it speculates on what drew me to it in the first place: what it might be like to be a crow. In the course of explaining crow behavior, though, the authors sometimes get bogged down in mechanistic explanations of corvid brains. And, while it's no doubt useful for scientists to learn how a sensory perception courses through the different parts of a crow's brain, for lay readers it neither enlivens nor informs their picture of the crow.

That said, the book is worth read
An interesting contemplation of the analogous brain structures of humans and corvids and speculation on what that indicates for the conscious lives of these incredibly interesting, smart, seemingly very human animals. The authors do attempt scientific objectivity in their studies but clearly very much want to believe that corvids are capable of accessing and exhibiting language, insight, frolic, passion, wrath, grief, risk-taking and awareness (including self-awareness). The anecdotes and studie ...more
I can say I enjoyed the general parts of this book. It wasn't what I thought it would be from reading the summary. It's a well-written book, but contains sections that are highly research-y. I was interested in the general information and anecdotes about the crows and other corvids. And those parts were very, very enjoyable and informing. The author shows the many sides of the personalities and intelligence of corvids. They are really birds to be admired.

The other parts of the book, which were i
Carol Ward
I don't normally read a lot of non-fiction, but I was happy to make an exception for this book. I knew crows were smart, but I never realized just how truly intelligent they really are. Right from the beginning, in the very the first chapter, we're given an example of a crow who learned to make and use a tool to retrieve food. I had no idea they could do things like that!

I have a family of four crows that I leave peanuts out for, and I love to watch them as they swoop in to take the peanuts off
Gifts of the Crow was a great book. I learned a lot about corvid intelligence and the ways they process information. I was surprised by their cognitive complexity and fascinated by the anecdotes. The book was overall engaging and rarely lost my attention. I also thought it was well organized by topic. No chapter felt overly long or unstructured.

I enjoyed the drawings, too. Sometimes the human drawings were not quite to scale or a little off, but overall it added to the stories. I feel like many
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
Boria Sax
This is among the most complete of the many books about corvid intelligence written in the last couple of decades, but it is most innovative in its discussion of anecdotes. The majority of scientists have largely ignored these accounts, and a few have accepted them almost uncritically, but Gifts of the Crow by Marzluff and Angle goes farther than any other in systematically attempting to understand them. This book contains reports of crows that leave gifts to human benefactors, ring doorbells to ...more
While this was entirely interesting, and admittedly a bit over my head at brief moments, it was more clinical than I thought it would be. There are some very interesting stories of what crows have done and their relationships with people - just more technical for the average reader (which I believe I am). I gave it three stars, not for the clinical or technical aspects, but because it did seem to drag on a bit. I love crows - so read it you do too, you'll like it.
Joel Peters
Fascinating book about the intelligence, and even sense of humor, as well as many other traits of the class of birds known as corvids. The book alternates between very scientific explanations of the inner workings of brains and engaging anecdotal stories about these birds. I was amazed to read of the high level of intelligence, (com)passion, humor, and sociability of these birds. The book appears to be well-researched and is clearly written.
These mysterious, intelligent birds have always fascinated me, so I was delighted by this book, which proves them to be even more intelligent (though now less mysterious) than I imagined. Without a background in neurobiology, or at least the structure and functions of the brain, I got fairly lost in certain chapters, but the anecdotes and experiments are really amazing.
Lexie Graham
This book is a fascinating look into the minds of the highly intelligent corvid family, primarily describing crows and ravens. I have to admit that while the neuroscience tended to make my eyes glaze over so that I skimmed a lot of it, the science was clearly presented. The authors cover behavior in chapters on language, playing, mischief, awareness, grief and risk taking. The anecdotes and observations alone make the book worth reading. There are crows who leave gifts, ride on bicycle handlebar ...more
My bird club book club read this book and enjoyed it. Although all the brain anatomy discussion left me a little bored, I really enjoyed all the anecdotes about corvid behavior. The book was a little misleadingly entitled since it discussed all corvids, not just crows.
This book discusses corvid behavior, neurobiology, etc. I think the writer made the subject very approachable, particularly when discussing the more anatomical aspects of corvid neurobiology. Had a hard time following some of the more technical details, but felt it a good read overall. I certainly have a better appreciation for these birds.
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On The Nature of ...: February 2013 Book Discussion 1 3 Feb 07, 2013 08:46PM  
  • Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle
  • Bird Brains: The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies, and Jays
  • Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness
  • Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds
  • The Bird: A Natural History of Who Birds Are, Where They Came From & How They Live
  • The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong
  • Bird Sense: What It's Like to Be a Bird
  • Corvus: A Life with Birds
  • 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
  • Rat Island: Predators in Paradise and the World's Greatest Wildlife Rescue
  • The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds
  • Bug Music: How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise
  • A Spring without Bees: How Colony Collapse Disorder Has Endangered Our Food Supply
  • What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World
  • A Supremely Bad Idea: Three Mad Birders and Their Quest to See It All
  • Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the Earth's Last Dinosaur
  • The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking, and the Search for Lost Species
  • A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction
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...
In the Company of Crows and Ravens Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife Dog Days, Raven Nights Radio Tracking and Animal Populations (IGN Outdoor Activities (Plein Air)) The Pinyon Jay: Behavioural Ecology of a Colonial & Cooperative Corvid

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