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Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  2,592 ratings  ·  281 reviews
In Mind of the Raven, Bernd Heinrich, award - winning naturalist, finds himself dreaming of ravens and decides he must get to the truth about this animal reputed to be so intelligent.

Much like a sleuth, Heinrich involves us in his quest, letting one clue lead to the next. But as animals can only be spied on by getting quite close Heinrich adopts ravens, thereby becoming a
Paperback, 380 pages
Published April 5th 2000 by Ecco Press (first published 1994)
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4.05  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,592 ratings  ·  281 reviews

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Feb 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

It’s a mix of personal anecdotes, scientific study, and speculation. Heinrich loves and respects these birds. He knows as much or more about them than anyone.

The writing is not particularly ordered, but it’s likable and I learned some things. I’m still not sure if the charm is in the telling or the ravens.
Petra Eggs
Rewritten 18 Sept 2011

Fascinating things you learn in books that may save your life one day if you are stuck in the woods (or not).

Now I know how to climb a tree so tall that the branches don't even begin until 60-80 feet up.

1. Attach a fine monofilament line, anchored to the ground, to an arrow which you fire over the crown of the tree.

2. When the arrow is fired, standing in the original place, attach a much thicker line to the line you had fixed to the ground.

3. Go to where the arrow is now,
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book starts out slowly; give it a chance. By the end you will see that all the separate parts hold together providing a complete, cohesive and strong argument confirming the intelligence of ravens. I knew very little about ravens when I began. Now they fascinate me, and I am convinced that Bernd Heinrich, an experimental biologist, has in a balanced fashion woven together both his own scientific experiments and numerous anecdotal stories.

The book is well organized. It starts with his captur
I got this book after spending a couple of summers on our land (now with cabin) in the North Woods. The ravens are omnipresent there, winter and summer. As I watched them wheel through the sky and heard their haunting cries, my curiosity about them was piqued.
This book far exceeded my expectations. Heinrich, a biologist by profession, presents insights into ravens' behavior garnered from his decade-long study of the wolf-birds. It was amazing the lengtbs that Heinrich would go to get a close g
Oct 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
What do ravens think about?

I'm moving up the phylogenetic tree from my recent read about mollusc minds (The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness) to birds. Mind of the Raven is another great book about creature consciousness. I'll read just about anything Bernd Heinrich writes--I'm a major fan. My all time favorite (as a New Englander) is Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival. Mind of the Raven is more a series of studies in behavioral ecology a
Jun 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Ravens and crows have a reputation for being smart. In this beautiful book, Heinrich asks if ravens act by carrying out a series of innate, programmed behaviors, or if they're capable of thinking, planning ahead, and emotion.

I picked this book up after seeing a particularly social raven taunt some tourists on Vancouver island. What a weird bird.

Each chapter is laid out as an experiment. Can ravens recognized individual humans? Heinrich approaches the ravens in his aviary in a Halloween mask, i
Jul 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
I had high expectations going into this book. As an amateur naturalist, and someone with degrees in wildlife biology and conservation I was already intrigued by ravens and hoped to learn more in depth about their behaviors and social structures. Instead, this book is simply a piecemeal, intricately detailing each of the author's individual experiments and observations of the birds over time with no overarching narrative to tie all the information together. Certainly, he is an authority on ravens ...more
Jun 02, 2009 rated it liked it
Mind of the Raven, by Bernd Heinrich

A great scientific study of Ravens. The observations gave me a clear picture of the animal that played a crucial role in human history, inspired trickster myths, and stirred our collective imagination. I read this book along with Lewis Hyde's Trickster Makes this World, and they are excellent companions. Hyde's book is an excellent exploration of trickster mythology, but he does not credit the animals spirits themselves for enough inspiration and interplay th
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
This was more of experiments with ravens. I did learn some interesting items of ravens and their characters.
"With ravens, the line between interpretation and fact is commonly a thin one, but as Mark Pavelka, who studied ravens for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, said, "With other animals you can usually throw out 90 percent of the stories you hear about them as exaggerations. With ravens, it's the opposite. No matter how strange or amazing the story, chances are pretty good that at
Kevin McAllister
Jun 29, 2012 rated it liked it
As a professor of biology at The University of Vermont its understandable that the author of this book ; Bernd Heinrich would want to write a detailed, specific, and scientific account of the mind of ravens; and he does just that throughout the book. But as a lover and admirer of ravens he also waxes poetic about them again and again. Blending the science with the myth and lore of ravens could have been a really good idea for a book but unfortunately, for me, the author didn't quite pull it off. ...more
Bob Dolgan
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book changed the way I view bird behavior. The author conducts incredible, long-term studies of ravens that show what incredibly intelligent birds they are.
While visiting the National Parks of Wyoming and Utah last year, I frequently spotted Mind of the Raven on the shelves in the parks' visitor center gift shops. After I returned home I found that I was still intrigued by the book and ordered myself a copy. Finally, a little more than a year later, I got around to reading it.

I have to say I had never given a lot of thought to ravens. I remember seeing some in a cage at the Tower of London back in 2000, and of course I'm familiar with Edgar Allan P
Aug 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Heinrich was told by his major professor at UC Davis never to study some animal smarter that you are. Well, he did. Only by writing this book which is a series of anecdotes can you appreciate the breadth and depth of their intelligence. He stole young ravens from the nest and raised them in his aviary out in the woods of Maine by his cabin. He gave them new things to explore and tried to fool them in various ways, but they usually figured out whatever he was doing. The tales he tells are just sp ...more
Nihal Vrana
Even though I have a biology degree; there isn't even a speck of a naturalist in me; so the "magic of the forest" parts were completely lost on me. Also, being a more experimentalist scientist, the "experiments" they were doing were too unstructured for me (But nevertheless interesting). Beyond being professionally irked and thrown into a world that does not mean much to me, it is a very good book.

Hats off to the perseverance, love and ingenuity that went to most of what Prof. Heinrich did. He i
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I don't think I've ever read a more fleshed out and wonderful non-fiction book. I've read quite a few non-fiction books, but none that changed my view of something as much as this changed my view of the common raven. The book itself was a textbook for my Animal Behaviour course (a psychology course) and I honestly don't think the professor could've picked a better, more fitting book. It's not like a textbook, it's a novel. I'm not going to lie to you, I've never been a big fan of birds, but afte ...more
Sep 06, 2013 rated it liked it
I appreciated the juicy tidbits and unique observations about Ravens this book had to offer but I'd prefer the author wrote with more help from his editor.
He writes like a scientist, which is to be expected, however it doesn't make for fluid reading.
In the final chapters, I felt he wrote defensively--like he had to prove that this text was worthy of respect in the scientific community.
I loved it and found it tedious all at the same time.
I have wanted to read this book for so long. I was excited to receive it as part of a book exchange.

I read one hundred pages and found myself losing momentum. This isn’t quite what I was expecting. There is too much detail about the day to day activities of the research teams of which Heinrich is a member.

I skipped to the chapters that looked more engaging, but I just couldn’t finish it.
Oct 13, 2008 rated it liked it
I did enjoy this book, mostly for Heinrich's descriptions of specific ravens that he got to know as individuals, though after a point the stories and experiments felt repetitive and unmotivated. By the time the author reached the crux of the book, in which he describes an experiment that 'proves' ravens can act with intelligence, it felt like a bit of an anti-climax.
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Heinrich calls the raven wolf-bird, because he believes they co-evolved to have a symbiotic relationship. In the absence of wolves, ravens will follow--and sometimes assist--hunters. He has spent a great deal of time with ravens. He has hand raised nestlings, and made close observation in the field at feeding and nesting sites. With his fellow researcher John Marzluff, he also created a large aviary for his hand-raised and wild captive birds to study their interactions up close. Through all of t ...more
Apr 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Kathy by: Saw it on a bookstore table
In Mind of the Raven Bernd Heinrich chronicles the experiments he did on "his" captive ravens and the wild ravens that live in the area around his cabin. He concludes that ravens have consciousness, intelligence, and memory. He concludes from his and others' experiments that ravens make plans and devise solutions to problems (like how to fly away with two donuts at once--"This raven, instead of grasping the first donut with his bill, stuck its bill through the hole in the donut. That left its bi ...more
Jun 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Bernd Heinrich is a naturalist, scientist, and writer with lyrical flair extraordinaire. In this book, he sets out to explore the life of the raven and raven society. With a series of engenious experiments, hours of observation, treks through the woods of northern Maine, using captured raven chicks raised to adult hood, and the ravens in the wild, Heinrich develops a profound insight into the world of the raven. He studies raven language, social heirarchy, methods and purposes of communication. ...more
Apr 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: nature, non-fiction
This book has sat on my shelves for a while, but after reading some interesting articles on the raven's relative, the crow, I thought that I would read more. While the Internet contains flashier anecdotes on these birds and their close relations, complete with video even, Heinrich's award-winning investigation is definitely more substantive. In a combination of personal observations across the globe, experiments and anecdotes of his own, Heinrich paints a fascinating portrait of this remarkable ...more
Ellen Behrens
Apr 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I never thought much about ravens, other than to be impressed by how big and bold they are, until we were driving our good-sized Winnebago RV down a highway and a raven flew straight toward our windshield, flipped upside-down, flew inverted like that for a beat or two, then righted itself just in time to fly over the top of our rig. All in a few amazing seconds. I never knew a bird could do that and if my husband hadn't seen it too, I would have wondered if I was just imagining it.

When I spotte
Jul 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Patricia Devereux
Aug 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in birds.
Heinrich has an amazing ability to present the secret lives of birds to laypeople, with few scientific pretensions.

But he never anthropomorphizes the ravens; instead, he sees them as the unique entities that they are, perfectly adapted to what nature demands of them. Yes, he loves his captive birds, but respects their "otherness," never seeing them as cunning little pets. Bravo!

Heinrich gives a very accurate, unromanticized look into the rigors of field observations, especially in harsh climate
Katie M.
Jun 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: birders, natural history buffs,
Recommended to Katie by: my mom
Shelves: nonfiction
Mind of the Raven is an interesting exploration of a fascinating species. There are all sorts of cool anecdotes about raven behavior, both in captivity and the wild. I particularly enjoyed the exploration of the possibility of ravens having mutualistic relationships with predators like wolves and humans, where the ravens feed from the predators' kills and may direct the predators toward prey. The structure of the book wasn't terribly coherent. There were some places in the early to middle parts ...more
Sep 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My favorite naturalist!!! I've previously read _Summer World_ and _Winter World_--fantastic studies of animals' seasonal patterns and adaptations . . . Heinrich is richly curious and his writing is very accessible while being very thorough. Heinrich documents his observations of wild birds, but also documents raven behavior as he observed it using wild-caught chicks raised in his aviary. He is inventive and tireless in the objects he introduces them to to elicit reaction. He addresses the symbio ...more
Jan 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book was so disappointing after all the hype around it. The scientific "methods" made me so angry. The manipulations. The careless leaving of carcasses around the forest. The generalizations from single incidental observations.
This book is good for getting folks interested in a fascinating species. For getting people to look beyond themselves at another species. I just don't agree with the branding of these observations as full fledged research. One sample subject is not enough. Granted th
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Intricate examination of captive and wild ravens. The depth of their interactions with each other and other species is fascinating. Amazing insights through observation and analysis. Science books can be great to read.
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Play Book Tag: Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich - 5 stars 6 16 Jul 10, 2017 09:13PM  
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Bernd Heinrich was born in Germany (April 19, 1940) and moved to Wilton, Maine as a child. He studied at the University of Maine and UCLA and is Professor Emeritus of Biology at the University of Vermont.

He is the author of many books including Winter World, Ravens in Winter, Mind of the Raven and Why We Run. Many of his books focus on the natural world just outside the cabin door.

Heinrich has w
“Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of less worth?” 1 likes
“As John Fowles points out in The Tree (1979), nature is, unlike art, created as “an external object with a history…but also creating in the present, as we experience it. As we watch, it is so to speak rewriting, reformulating, repainting, rephotographing itself.” 1 likes
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