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Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness

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There are more crows now than ever. Their abundance is both an indicator of ecological imbalance and a generous opportunity to connect with the animal world. CROW PLANET reminds us that we do not need to head to faraway places to encounter "nature." Rather, even in the suburbs and cities where we live we are surrounded by wild life such as crows, and through observing them we can enhance our appreciation of the world's natural order. CROW PLANET richly weaves Haupt's own "crow stories" as well as scientific and scholarly research and the history and mythology of crows, culminating in a book that is sure to make readers see the world around them in a very different way.

229 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Lyanda Lynn Haupt

8 books319 followers
Lyanda Lynn Haupt is a naturalist, eco-philosopher, and speaker whose writing is at the forefront of the movement to connect people with nature in their everyday lives. Her newest book is Mozart's Starling: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3...

“Mozart’s Starling is a delightful, enlightening, breathless flight through the worlds of Carmen and Star, two European starlings who join their human counterparts in exploring life and music and nature, helping to shed light on the connection between humans and birds--those of us bound to terra firma, and those of us who are free to soar.”

Garth Stein
NYT bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain and A Sudden Light

Lyanda's recent book, Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness, was widely praised and is available in paperback.

“A completely charming and informative book on the pleasures of keeping one’s eyes open.” -David Sedaris

“With her sensitivity, careful eye and gift for language, Haupt tells her tale beautifully, using crow study to get at a range of ever-deepening concerns about nature and our place within it, immersing us in a heady hybrid of science, history, how-to and memoir.” -Erika Schickel, Los Angeles Times

Lyanda’s first book, Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds (Sasquatch, 2001), explores the relationship between humans, birds, and ecological understanding, and is a winner of the 2002 Washington State Book Award.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 370 reviews
Profile Image for Eben.
1 review
February 4, 2011
I picked this book up thinking it would be about crows. I know, right? What kind of idiot buys a book titled "Crow Planet" with the expectation that it will primarily discuss and examine crows? No, this book is actually all about an uncritical, self-satisfied woman who thinks she's better and "greener" than you. Also, she seems to believe in magic (e.g. she observes that when she actively looks for a certain bird, she seems to see that bird more often, and she posits that the act of looking somehow results in more birds being present. She claims that when looking for wildlife, "the more we prepare, the more we are 'allowed' somehow to see", seemingly oblivious to the possibility that the birds were there all along, but she simply didn't notice them because she wasn't looking for them. She also implicitly accepts morphic resonance as scientific fact). To be clear, the book does sporadically discuss crows, but these brief interludes serve merely as a jumping-off point for the author to discuss, with her floweriest, most purple prose, her most precious subject: herself. In this regard, the book is quite a treasure, and is likely unique. I am not aware of any other author who delves so deeply into the life of Lyanda Haupt. The reader is presented with such thrilling episodes as: Lyanda Haupt crying; Lyanda Haupt walking around; Lyanda Haupt hanging laundry; Lyanda Haupt justifying her wasteful suburban existence and explaining why her way of life is superior to yours (hint: the secret is simultaneously rationalizing away your own negative environmental impact and haughtily and condescendingly criticizing everyone else's lifestyle); Lyanda Haupt attending an Indigo Girls concert; and so many, many more.

If you want to read about crows, I suggest Bernd Heinrich. If you want smug, neo-hippie, pseudoscientific nonsense and tedious anecdotes from the life of an uninteresting suburban housewife, this should do you just fine. Just remember not to vaccinate your children.
Profile Image for Melora.
575 reviews142 followers
August 12, 2018
An engaging blend of natural history and personal narrative. Haupt describes how she came to study crows, and how that study helped pull her out of a severe bout of depression. I read this for a book club, and some people felt that they'd have liked a tighter focus on crows. For me, though, Haupt's meandering exploration of ecology and ethology, folklore and myth, collected crow anecdotes and recovery memoir was delightful and completely satisfactory. She tells some marvelous crow stories -- I think my favorite was about crow-couple nest building (perhaps because I've been recently "nest building" myself, after our family's recent move). It seems that when a crow couple is building their nest, sometimes the female will let the male place his twig, then, as soon as he flies off for another, she will pull his twig out and put it in the right spot. I can just picture the male coming back, doing a double take, and asking, "Is that where I put that stick?" And, of course, the female will respond fondly, "And it looks lovely there! You are So clever, honey."
Profile Image for Andrea McDowell.
569 reviews314 followers
June 21, 2021
As an urban/suburban environmentalist, I picked up this book (metaphorically; this is a review of the audiobook) with great enthusiasm. I love works that help people explore the nature they live among and with, rather than placing Nature as somewhere Out There that enlightened urbanites visit for a few weeks per year. Sadly I was often disappointed. I initially rated it 2.5 rounded up, but as I write this I'm revising to 2.5 rounded down.

On the good: I found the writing lovely and clear and often side-splittingly funny. The scene with the baby crows carefully and with great attention dismantling her vegetable garden as if "they were working on their knitting," and then reacting to a hose turned on them with glee, made me literally laugh out loud. Her careful observations of the wildlife around her house and in her neighbourhood was delightful. However, it was utterly ruined by her biases on many levels.

Here I'll focus on my personal nemesis--ableism--and how this book exemplifies my main concerns with the conflation in the environmental movement of "natural" with "abled", and therefore casting disability and disabled persons aside as "unnatural," their lives a modern western decadence rather than a right.

In the very first chapter she introduces us to Charlotte, a disabled crow, cared for past the typical timeframe by her parents due to her inability to use one of her legs. This was a perfect opportunity for Haupt to reconsider her bigotry, to think that maybe, just maybe, parents caring for disabled children of all species because they love them and want them to thrive undercuts her preconceptions. But no. Instead she wonders why the parents would do this when it was must be so unrewarding (I believe her assumption is that Charlotte will never be able to pass on her genes, so why not just let her die?).

There is, towards the middle of the book, an extended and entirely unreflective section on how walking is the only way humans can come to love their environment. Not "direct experience" or "close contact" or "relationships over time" with non-human nature. No. Just "walking." On your feet, in the woods or as close as you can get to them. This, too, casts disabled people outside of the human family. I guess, since those who use mobility devices often need pavement to get around, which is in short supply in the woods, and in any case aren't *walking* there, can't form close relationships with non-human nature and therefore can't become naturalists nor love nature the way she does. Never mind that almost everything Haupt actually does in the book could be done in a wheelchair, without feet, given that she's observing crows in her garden or near her daughter's school.

If you want an extended rebuttal to Haupt's rhetoric, I recommend Eli Clare, a disability justice activist and environmental advocate who writes brilliantly and clearly on the overlapping terrain of these two issues. Clare isn't alone; there are many other writers doing the same, and plenty of disabled people with an ecological consciousness and naturalist bent; but why on earth should Haupt bother to check her biases with a shred of research?

In the last chapter, there's another extended rant, this time about the worthlessness and hopelessness of life with a disability. Since this was the audiobook, and therefore a transcription of what the narrator says, the punctuation and paragraph breaks may be different than that in the print edition; still, I think it is worth quoting at length, along with my outraged commentary:

"I recognize Charlotte right away by the way she roosts, resting her belly on the wire instead of standing up straight as Crows normally do. Her leg never healed properly, and it splays to the side when she feeds on the ground.

"I've been keeping an eye on her for months now, watching as she struggled along as a fledgling on the neighbourhood sidewalks, then as a fully grown if not a bit scrawny first-year bird. Miraculously dodging cats, raccoons, and migrating coopers hawks. [ed: "miraculously" is a value statement, not a fact or observation.] Injured crows very often survive where birds of other species would perish. [ed: no evidence provided for either assertion.] Their terrific intelligence and omnivorous diet allow behavioural range unavailable to most birds. Where an injured warbler would huddle and starve, [ed: no evidence provided] an injured crow can mix and scratch. In a park setting, where crows are accustomed to people, I have noticed that injured crows will more closely approach a person tossing bits of food than a healthy crow typically does.

"With a permanent injury, crumpled foot or one blind eye for example, the already difficult crow life is even harder. These birds make do. [ed: imagine if she had taken the evidence of her own senses here and revised her opinions on disability.] Whenever a person tells me he or she has been feeding a crow on the back porch, it almost always turns out that the bird is injured. Even crows with broken hanging wings, whose open wounds have healed but whose broken bones were never set, so they cannot fly, sometimes survive for a time. [ed: no evidence provided. No indication of what 'for a time' means.] They stake out a territory on the ground and scavenge and beg. They may not have a long life, but most avian species couldn't pull off any semblance of such an existence. [ed: no evidence provided for either assertion.]

"Several people have called me over the years to ask me what to do about an injured bird. I'm always struck when they say something like, 'it's actually in pretty good shape. Very alert. It just has a broken wing.' [ed: again, ignoring the evidence in front of her because it does not fit with her preconceptions on disability. Imagine if she had taken the opportunity to learn that yes, of course, the injury is hard, but it is not surprising or rare that living things will go on surviving and even flourishing anyway.] Most people don't realize that a wing ... is not like an arm. it is more like a heart. Birds were made for flight. Even birds that cannot fly now, ostriches ... evolved from birds that could. [ed: all birds are made for flight, even birds that can't fly and haven't flown for millennia. Therefore: the life of a bird that can't fly is not worth living. Ok then.]

"But how to live without a forelimb? No arm, no hand, no front paw? No other terrestrial vertebrate has managed such a life. ... [ed: except every other terrestrial vertebrate that has, including an awful lot of animals that have escaped from human traps, pets that have lost limbs in accidents or due to illness or that were born without, or the very substantial number of humans that were born without limbs or lost them due to any number of reasons, and who have all gone on living--happily, even.]

"Charlotte might be thin and slumped, but she managed to learn to fly on one leg, no mean accomplishment. I wonder, what does it mean to have no hope? When there is a radiant earth-loving child singing in the bathroom, and a one-legged bird that has learned to fly in your tree?"

Inspo-porn, bird-style.

In the search for this section so I could transcribe it, I came across again the chapter on how sight is also essential for naturalists. A few minutes' search on google showed me many example of naturalists and ecologists who are disabled--with vision loss, or using wheelchairs or walkers, or any number of other things. They are entirely invisible to Haupt. This is not accidental. Even when evidence is directly in front of her, she cannot perceive it . She loves Charlotte, she claims, but will not believe her when Charlotte is clearly showing that she loves her life.

Please note that Charlotte, the disabled crow with one bad leg, has been an extended presence in the entire book, loving her parents and being loved by them, but even with this evidence directly in front of Haupt's eyes the entire time, she can only see limb loss and disability as a catastrophic tragedy, one deserving of a truly impressive wailing and gnashing of teeth by someone who obviously has so thoroughly excluded disabled people from her own life that she's not got the first fucking clue what she's talking about.

I'm going to ignore all the sexist earth-mother nonsense; I imagine other reviews have taken on her contention that obviously, "primate mothers" want to care for their own young, so she became a stay at home mother. Guess I'm not a "primate mother"? News to me. (For an extended, scientific, well researched and footnoted take on these reductive stereotypes of the maternal instinct, see Sarah Blaffer Hrdy). You could take this in the direction of a classism analysis as well, but as I think I'll have enough to criticize just focusing on disability, I'll refrain.

So here's the thing:

Her wailing and gnashing of teeth about the horrors of disability sounds exactly the same as her wailing and gnashing of teeth about environmental destruction. Because they are the same.

We are not killing the planet.

We are disabling it.

It is going to live through us, whatever we do (barring the possible exception of all-out nuclear war); its form and function will radically change. It will work differently and look differently. Kind of like a disabled person. And kind of like a disabled person, we've been enculturated to find these changes or differences in form of function very distressing, often too distressing to cope with. With disabled people, you find society often assumes that they would be better off dead (disabled people rarely agree; levels of suicidality are about the same between disabled and abled people. Yet here in Canada, for instance, where Medical Assistance In Dying legislation has recently been expanded to include disabled Canadians who are not at risk of dying otherwise, this has been embraced as a step forward for human rights by abled people while reacted to with horror by just about every disability rights organization).

With disabled planets, you find people like Musk assuming a literally dead planet (Mars) is better than a living one that works differently than it used to.

While Haupt isn't advocating the terraforming of Mars, she does act and write as if the changes we're making to the environment are so terrible and distressing that there is no point to living through them. I think this is nonsense. Unless you, whoever you are, reacted to your own birth with "but where were the forests that grew here x00 years ago, and what has befallen the mammoth? I can't live here!" then it is most likely that future generations will embrace the conditions they were born into, consider them normal, and construct the best lives they can for themselves.

Ableism muddles people's reactions to this argument, so: in case you are now wondering "but if there's nothing wrong with disability, why try to save the planet/prevent disabling illnesses or conditions?" So analogize disability to being the victim of a crime. We'll say sexual assault, or child abuse: it will likely change who you are and how you function in the world. In that way, it's disabling. We wouldn't say that the lives of the victims of these crimes are worthless or that they are better off dead, and we also wouldn't argue that since their lives are still worth living that means it's not worth trying to prevent rape or child abuse.

My disabled child loves nature; even though they have had periods where they can't walk and can currently not walk much, and certainly not for long on uneven terrain. We have wildlife around our home, after all. There is a family of robins raising a brood of hatchlings on our front door lamp as I write this, and I can see mama and papa robin doing what parents of many species do: working tirelessly to feed and protect their children. You do not need to walk to love the world.

And when I go into the woods, where the terrain is too steep and uneven for them, I'm well aware that the landscapes I interact with are different in form and function than they were before colonization; they are disabled, in that sense. Yet they are green and full of living things. When I sit by my favourite pond, I do wonder what it would say, if it could speak, about the change in its circumstances. The introduced and invasive species, the loss of shade, the traffic and air pollution. What I can tell just from the evidence of my senses is that nothing there believes it would be better off dead, or that it has no value. It doesn't bewail and moan. It embraces the life that it has.

Haupt's writing clearly shows she suffers from this kind of warped thinking, and it leaks from her ableism about disabled bodies--human and otherwise--into other kinds of physical disability as well. We would as a society be much better off, and environmentalism would be better served and less hateful, if we could unlearn these toxic lessons about the worthlessness of disability and the 'unnaturalness' of disabled lives.
Profile Image for R K.
493 reviews66 followers
May 2, 2017
Splendidly written. Whimsical. Melancholy. And not hesitant to destroy your presumptions.
Haupt puts you into the world around you. She takes on a different approach. Rather then bring nature to you she opts to bring you to nature. Immerse yourself into the wilderness surrounding your urban environment. Teaching the reader to be a naturalist in easy yet important steps. She not on teaches you but shows you how these skills have helped her in learning more about the behaviour and physiology of crows.

It's a wondrous book that does it's best to teach you, the reader to be observant and wary of the behaviour of nature. To always question and ponder. To not let anger at unexplained animal behaviour to get the best of you. Animals, unlike humans, always have a reason for their actions.

It's a very lovely book. Philosophical combined with animal science.
A must read for all.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
9,331 reviews399 followers
October 26, 2016
I wanted to love this. But Haupt describes how she was reluctant to write it, and found it a chore... and I found it a chore to read. However, there are tidbits I learned about corvids and urban naturalists that I had not learned elsewhere, so I still recommend it if you're interested.

Tips - do not offer dryer lint as a nest liner. Do not put up bird feeders. Do put up swallow and bat boxes. Do walk and look, really & truly & more deeply than you can imagine.

And why did Daniel Cautrell not get title page credit for his woodcuts? I had to read the fine print on the copyright page to find his name.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,612 reviews2,580 followers
June 28, 2019
Haupt has worked in bird research and rehabilitation for the Audubon Society and other nature organizations. I read her first book, Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds, quite a few years ago, when my husband first got big into birding. During a bout of depression, she decided to start paying more attention to the natural world right outside her suburban Seattle window. Crows were a natural place to start. From then on she took binoculars everywhere she went, even on walks to Target. She spent time watching crows’ behavior from a distance or examining them up close – devoting hours to studying a prepared crow skin. She even temporarily took in a broken-legged fledgling she named Charlotte and kept a close eye on the injured bird’s progress in the months after she released it.

Were this simply a charming and keenly observed record of bird behavior and one woman’s gradual reawakening to the joys of being in nature, I would still have loved it. Haupt is a forthright and gently witty writer. But what takes it well beyond your average nature memoir is the bold statement of human responsibility to the environment. She’s in conversation with ecology legends like Wendell Berry and Aldo Leopold. I’ve sat through whole conference sessions at New Networks for Nature that try to define what nature is, what the purpose of nature writing is, and so on. Haupt can do it in just a sentence, concisely and effortlessly explaining how be a naturalist in a time of loss and how to hope even when in possession of all the facts. Highly recommended to anyone who’s concerned about the environment.

Readalikes: Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear; Corvus and Field Notes from a Hidden City by Esther Woolfson

A few favorite passages:

“an intimate awareness of the continuity between our lives and the rest of life is the only thing that will truly conserve the earth … When we allow ourselves to think of nature as something out there, we become prey to complacency. If nature is somewhere else, then what we do here doesn’t really matter.”

“I believe strongly that the modern naturalist’s calling includes an element of activism. Naturalists are witnesses to the wild, and necessary bridges between ecological and political ways of knowing. … We join the ‘cloud of witnesses’ who refuse to let the more-than-human world pass unnoticed.”

“here we are, intricate human animals capable of feeling despair over the state of the earth and, simultaneously, joy in its unfolding wildness, no matter how hampered. What are we to do with such a confounding vision? The choices appear to be few. We can deny it, ignore it, go insane with its weight, structure it into a stony ethos with which we beat our friends and ourselves to death—or we can live well in its light.”
Profile Image for Leslie.
288 reviews111 followers
October 20, 2014
With so much time spent reading words inside of books, magazines, newspapers, e-readers, and computer screens---and being entranced, annoyed, informed, and inspired by imaginary, theoretical, and reality-show worlds---I sometimes feel myself losing touch with the phenomenal worlds of water, earth, wind, and fire!

I decided to read Crow Planet because of its subtitle: “Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness.” I hoped that it would refresh my perspective and encourage me to read more nonfiction titles about life forms other than people. Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s modest book (less than 250 pages) is full of crow facts, crow lore, and crow observations, but her narrative is mostly a meditation on what we human beings think it means to be environmentally-conscious lovers of nature. Despite Haupt’s sometimes haughty tone (---in one section she calls a less knowledgable bird-lover an “idiot”---), I read this book happily. It got me wondering how we (human beings in general and urban-dwellers, specifically) truly feel about things “wild.” How do we feel about anything untamed, “uncivilized,” and undomesticated?

While reading Crow Planet I stopped hurrying down the street between my apartment building and the bus stop with my ears plugged-up with iPod selections. Instead I began listening [again] to sounds in nature like wind rustling tree limbs, and squirrels scampering over many types of ground surfaces. I listened for crow’s caws, and other birds’ chirps, whistles, cries, and complaints. I inhaled the sour, damp smells of thawing soil, and stopped to touch and inspect leaves, buds, and berries; and remembered to lift up my eyes and look at the sky.
Profile Image for nil.
258 reviews
April 1, 2010
First and foremost, this book is not really about crows. Yes, crows are involved, and yes, the author does observe them in urban settings. It is not, however, about crows. This was disappointing, but admittedly probably my fault for assuming a book titled Crow Planet would actually have more to do with crows. Not only did I want to read about the interesting things that crows do (because they are terribly interesting), I did not really want to sit through a lecture on how to return to being naturalists, and how to reestablish naturalists to their former standing in the scientific community. I really do enjoy being a naturalist, and perhaps that is why pages on treating your home like "the field" were tedious.

The primary issue I had with this book is that it is entirely anecdotal. The author lauds the naturalist's ability to be anecdotal while other scientific studies are too stringent, but in my opinion this book was far more about the author herself than anything else. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
Profile Image for Kasey Jueds.
Author 4 books61 followers
September 14, 2011
I've held off on writing about this book, even though I finished it several weeks ago, because I wasn't sure (and still am not) if I could convey how much I loved it, and how inspiring, thought-provoking, moving, and generally amazing I found it.

Like most beautiful and intelligent books I know, Crow Planet is about many things. Crows, obviously--both as themselves (incredibly smart, quirky, and one of the few animals to benefit from co-existing with humans) and as a potent symbol of loss of biodiversity. One of the many things that makes this book so lovable is Haupt's attitude: she does feel this loss pretty painfully, but she suggests that we pay attention to it (and to the other ways in which we've degraded the planet)and try to do something about it, and at the same time that we celebrate what we still have, in terms of what she calls, beautifully, the "more-than-human world." This includes celebrating crows (though she admits they're not her favorite bird) and celebrating the communities, and lives, we've been given. She points out that the tendency to think of nature as existing "somewhere else" rather than in the places where we actually live (I'm often guilty of this) tricks us into believing that our actions in our home communities don't really count. And she encourages all of us, especially those of us living in cities, to explore the idea of becoming "urban naturalists." The more-than-human world is right here, she says over and over, in a variety of lovely ways--and we should pay attention to it.

Haupt's story is so appealing because she includes herself so thoroughly in it; she hasn't placed herself as a sort of naturalist-lecturer who already knows everything and is just trying to share it with the ignorant (me). Instead, she describes her own journey through a depression, discusses her disappointment about ending up in a city after always having imagined herself in the country, and her subsequent, inspiring decision to accept her life as it is by becoming an urban naturalist. She also makes fun of herself when she find herself becoming too adamant or strident or critical of others. Plus, her writing is luminous. I kept copying paragraphs and sentences into my journal, and I read slowly, partly because Haupt takes the book in so many surprising, fascinating directions (I especially loved the discussions of lectio divino, and the pleasures of walking), and also just because I wanted to savor it.
Profile Image for Tom F.
12 reviews5 followers
July 7, 2009
Awesome book, lyrical and beautifully written and perfect for our times. I pretty much agree with the blurbs on Haupt's website:

“Haupt captures crows wonderfully in elegant prose and weaves a thoughtful tale that connects them… to our growing awareness of our kinship to, and dependence on, the rest of life.”
-Bernd Heinrich, author of Mind of the Raven

“If you picture Henry David Thoreau as a young mother and scientist in suburban Seattle, you can begin to imagine the literate elegance of Crow Planet. Lyanda Haupt has spun the natural life of neighborhoods, and most poignantly the surpassing intelligence of crows, into the kind of gold only the most gifted writer and naturalist could fashion. Crow Planet is a small treasure, a conversion experience of truth, wit, and re-enchantment that remakes the world and our place within it.”
-Paul Hawken, author of Blessed Unrest and Natural Capitalism

“The fiction (sometimes the hope!) that you can escape from nature by living in the city is as sad as it is widespread. This book will remind you to open your eyes to the mundane–it will make the city a far richer place for you.”
-Bill McKibben, author of The Bill McKibben Reader

“Lyanda Haupt observes crows with a naturalist’s eye and discovers that they are smart, social, and disturbingly like us… Your strolls around your neighborhood will be much more interesting after you read this book.”
-Denis Hayes, national coordinator for the first Earth Day and President and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation

“Crow Planet gently confronts us with the desperate need for mindfulness as we go about our daily lives in the urban wilderness so that evolution may continue and we may stem the loss of our humanity.”
-Maggie Ross, author of The Fire of Your Life: A Solitude Shared
Profile Image for Amy.
1,131 reviews
August 1, 2013
Interesting, inspiring, and insightful at times. This book did make me look at the city around me me in a totally different way.

UPDATE: 8/1/13 Ok, so I finished this book a little less than a month ago, and I've been trying to do as Lyanda Lynn Haupt suggests, and open my eyes to the urban wilderness around me. In the book she indicates that we've all seen dead crows, or we've had baby crows fall out of the trees at our feet as they're learning to fly. She also points out that crows sun themselves by spreading their wings and sitting or laying down in the grass, looking for all the world like they're dead. When I read these passages I thought, "I've never seen any of those things. Baby crows have never fallen at my feet, and I have absolutely never seen a crow sunning itself like she says they do."

Well, there's a reason I never saw any of those things. I wasn't looking! I kid you not, people, the day after I finished this book, I saw not one, but two dead crows laying by the sidewalk on my walk home from the bus stop. A few days later, I was out walking my dog, and a baby crow fell just about a foot away from us, landing right in the gutter by our feet! And last week, as I got off work, I looked out in the grassy area next to the building I work in, and sure enough, there was a crow with his wings spread, stretching out in the grass enjoying the sunshine! It was absolutely amazing! My niece told me, "Amy, it's like the book is haunting you!" It truly is like that! It is completely amazing how much you see when you make a conscious effort to open your eyes.

I originally rated this book 3 stars, but it's proven itself to me, and it's made me believe what it preaches--there is amazing wildness, even in the heart of the city. For that reason, I'm adding another star to this educational and haunting book.
Profile Image for Gilesslade.
11 reviews5 followers
August 16, 2009
I dread getting Environmental books in the mail from publishers who think I'll love them. Often, like James Hoggan's CLIMATE COVER-UP, they're shrill and overly long diatribes addressed to the already converted.
I long for more books that are not explicitly 'environmental' by people who love nature enough to interact with it. There was a gorgeous book last year called THE LAST WILD WOLVES that stirred my heart. My favorite writers in this vein start at John Muir who I think was a man who simply liked to take a walk in a wild spot, but then could remember what it had said to him, and could tell us elegantly why that was important to the rest of us. Sometimes late at night, his voice still lifts of the page for me and fills the room. I like writers who can do that. Crow Planet is pretty much in that tradition. Haupt has some astute observations and interpretations of corvids and their behavior and she likes language. For those of you who don't live in what American's call the NorthWest (or which B.C. residents call the southern mainland) Crows and Ravens are the next most intelligent things to man. They are eerily and spookily intelligent. Haupt's book is an intimate exploration of the unatrractive, overlooked creatures BBC.com calls "the brains of the animal world".

Profile Image for Chris.
2,862 reviews204 followers
March 16, 2015
4.5 stars. Very good, very thoughtful book about becoming more aware of our place in nature, starting with the tiny bits of nature available in the cities in which so many of us live. Haupt uses the example of crows throughout the book to illustrate both that our environmental balance is dangerously out of whack (allowing a few dominant species such as crows to thrive as more sensitive species decline) and that nature, even if it's "just" crows, persists wherever we are.
Profile Image for Perri.
1,283 reviews48 followers
February 2, 2019
This book isn't about crows per se, it's a reminder that in an urban or human heavy environment, we can still connect to nature. It encouraged me to seek and delight in the natural world wherever I might be. That I don't need to travel far to see connections in the world. Haupt shares her thoughts and insights in a way I found unassuming, but wise.
Profile Image for lauren.
290 reviews4 followers
April 22, 2018
The parts about crows are interesting, I just can't deal with her white lady assumptions and judgements about how the human world is.
Profile Image for Chris.
48 reviews
January 5, 2010
An easy, pleasant read about the value of getting to know your local wildlife and staying hopeful about the (daunting) ecological future. It's also a primer on birdwatching and "knowing your local crows." After the first chapter, I expected Haupt to "get mystical" about the planet, but she is rather pragmatic in her view of the current state of things and suggests we ought to take a walk outside and learn to appreciate what we have, whether we live on top of a mountain or in an urban jungle. I particularly liked her exposition on the greatness of walking (not necessarily hiking) and plan on using the ample walking space around my house more often. I also appreciated her drawing a line from her depression to relief via walking around outside and observing. Maybe a good walk is all a person needs sometimes.

Side note: the bird on the cover is actually a raven (has feathers at base of beak), not a crow; some crow drawings inside the book are actually ravens as well. D'oh!
Profile Image for Ronnie.
51 reviews
March 28, 2015
I thought this book would be about crows, or at the very least about birding in an urban environment. Only once does the author list the species she sees on a walk to Target (while being an apologist for shopping at Target. I don't care if she shops at Target). I really enjoyed Haupt's book Pilgrim on the Great Bird Continent, but as someone who already walks around with binoculars every time I go outside (and feels no shame or embarrassment in doing this, as opposed to the author when she starts), this book was maybe not meant for me.
Profile Image for Violet.
675 reviews21 followers
June 21, 2018
I really loved this book. I don't know anything about crows and never thought much about them, but now that I have read this, I am blown away by how smart and interesting these little creatures are and I feel more aware of them around me. It's really interesting to learn more about how they work together, how they protect each other, how they grieve. I feel much more interest and sympathy for them having read the book - and much more concern too about the environment.
This was informative, thorough and at the same time personal and poetic. Would highly recommend.
945 reviews53 followers
January 10, 2020
CROW PLANET is a collection of ten perceptive and well-written essays, most of them on the subject of crows. Why crows? Humans are a part of the larger nature around them, and the one native wild creature that most of us see on a near daily basis is the crow. Haupt writes that by closely observing this bird, we can regain a sense of our connectedness with nature. In larger terms that means our survival as a species. Not by the exploitation and destruction of nature but by becoming aware of the continuity between our human lives and the rest of life. That is the only thing that will conserve the earth.

Haupt who lives in Seattle has observed crows for a long time and comments that crows and apes have similar cognitive abilities. They use cause and effect in their reasoning, they use tools, and they seem to have the ability to imagine future events. One example is a crow that formed a piece of wire and formed it into a hook to retrieve food from a cylinder.

Crows engage in an incredible range of activities that display these abilities. They take care of one another when a crow is injured. They drop nuts on roads to be shelled by passing cars. Researchers have documented some 23 distinct meanings of their cawings . They sun themselves and even seem to engage in pleasurably playful activities. The list of crow abilities continues to grow.

Crows are just one illustration of the complexity of nature; Haupt concentrates on them because they can be easily observed. Any aspect of life in nature is probably as complex, or at least as interesting as crows, but it takes more specialized effort to be an observer. The beauty of crows is that any amateur can immediately begin an interest in them.

The difficulty is that most of us don’t really “see” what is before our eyes. To be an observer of crows, one has to be patient and watchful. Haupt says, “it [seeing] is about a habit of being, a way of knowing, a way of dwelling. It is about attentive recognition of our constant inevitable continuity with life on earth and the gorgeous knowledge this entails. We walk around like poems – our lives are infused with meaning beyond themselves.” Most of us in our busy lives find this attentiveness a luxury that is beyond us.

She writes with fascination about things we don’t ordinarily consider. One instance - all wild life dies, of course, but we’re generally not even aware of it. Where do dead crows go,? How do living crows react to the loss of one of their flock? She goes into considerable detail as well about how crows are ideally constructed to fly, talking about their light weight bones and their aeronautically designed wings.

In one of her last and more somber pieces, she pessimistically speculates that the best prospects for a renewed ecologically sound earth would be a massive and brutal overturning of the human population, followed by several millennia of planetary recovery. She’s not ready to give up on the present, though, and quotes Emily Dickenson who suggested that we live in “possibility.” We cannot predict what is going to happen, “but we make space for it, whatever it is, and realize that our participation has value.”
Profile Image for Ray Zimmerman.
Author 3 books7 followers
April 27, 2016
They press us to our own wilder energies. – From the text

The author of Crow Planet is fond of the term “zoopolis” defined as a place where human and wild geographies meet and mingle. Examples of this intersection of the human and wild geographies abound in her writing and on the grounds of her suburban home in Seattle.

Perhaps the overarching symbol in this book is “Charlotte,” a fledgling crow with a broken leg which appeared on her lawn one morning. Haupt is an experienced wildlife rehabilitator, so she took action. She took in the fledgling, fed it appropriate foods, splinted the leg, and returned it to the lawn. The parent crows witnessed her actions and dive bombed her during the capture and the return. She briefly addressed the issue of naming wild animals, but without apology she named the crow.

The crow parents did not continue their attacks on her after that day, which is surprising. She cites literature documenting the memory and continued animosity of crows toward those who have captured and banded them and toward those who have approached too close to their young. “Charlotte’s” parent crows, atypically, go about their business and peacefully coexist with Haupt and her family.

As Haupt continues her narrative of the zoopolis, she cites numerous written sources of information, from scientific and naturalist writings as well as words from the literary sphere. Her sources include poets Emily Dickinson and Ted Hughes, and scientists Aldo Leopold and Edward O. Wilson. Her chapter titles reflect the chapter titles of Henry David Thoreau’s seminal work, Walden, titles such as “Reading,” “Walking,” “Dwelling,” and “Helping,”.

In her investigations of the zoopolis, Haupt is well aware of the damage done to the natural world by human works. She also points out the importance of preserving wilderness areas both for the integrity of the biosphere and for the inspiration humans gain from them. She also points out that, just as humans have invaded the natural world with concrete and buildings, some creatures have thrived near our dwellings. She stresses the importance of this good news. Some invade our homesteads even as we are invading theirs. Haupt exhorts us to bring our concerns for wild nature to bear not only in the wilderness, but close to home where we have the greatest impact for good or ill.
Profile Image for Sydney.
46 reviews
August 3, 2014
I've had this book for a couple of years at least and finally picked it up a few days ago and gave it my full attention. I"m sure glad I did. Certainly, as the title and cover suggest crows feature prominently in this book by urban naturalist, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, and as someone who has a life long love and affinity for crows, that it what attracted me to this book. But, this book is not just for those who are especially fond of the lively, intelligent crow, but rather this is a book for anyone budding naturalist who finds themselves looking to connect more deeply with the planet and their own place in the natural world while living in an urban environment.

The author acknowledges herself to not be particularly fond of crows (although one can't help but suspect her feelings about them have been deeply impacted through her study of them). Haupt recognizes the crow's ability to live and thrive in human-infested environments makes them an ideal entry point into the study of the natural urban environment for many of us. She also provides wonderful insight into how a budding naturalist might interact with the world, what mind-set and tools are helpful, and although she doesn't describe it as such she brings a spiritual lens to the contemplative side of observing and making meaning of the wildlife around us. From living convivially with nature, to poetry, to explorations of Saint Benedicts "Benedicts Rule" for monastic life, featuring the practice of lectio divina, or as Haupt describes it "bringing a spiritual or contemplative attention to other spheres of daily life".

The crow-lover in me did rejoice in expanding my knowledge of crow's and their behaviour. I revelled in learning their intelligence rivals primates with a similar cognitive toolbox which includes not only causal reasoning and flexibility, but also imagination and prospection. But this book is much more, an inspiration to connection with the world around you, whether you live in the wide-open country, or surround by buildings and concrete.
Profile Image for KA.
878 reviews
January 11, 2012
This is a book of spirituality as well as natural history. Haupt is not a particular fan of crows, a species which grows at the pace the human race grows, and largely because of human devastation of other species' habitats. Her editor urges the project on her and it ultimately rouses her from depression and an understandable fatalistic attitude toward planetary health. This book is a mixture of science, storytelling, mythology, and observations on both the world around us and the world within. Her last two chapters are "Dying" (which looks at the role of crows in cleaning up our environment of dead things, the hatred humans have often felt for these symbols of death, and the awe and hope other human cultures have felt towards crows as symbols of the connection between death and the afterlife, or between the living and the dead) and "Flying" (which discusses the way crows often fly simply for the fun of it, and attempts to find a realistic hope for the world in the face of climate change), and in these chapters she really soars. Hope, she finds, quoting an unnamed source she finds in the library of the monastery where she's on retreat, is "that virtue by which we take responsibility for the future" (216). "In this light," she meditates, "hope is our positive orientation toward a future, a future in which we simultaneously recognize difficulty, responsibility, and delight. Hope is not relative to the present situation, nor is it dependent upon a specific outcome. It has everything to do with the renewal of the earth, whatever shape it will take. Hope is not an antidote to despair, or a sidestepping of difficulty, but a companion to all of these things" (217). This is perhaps not all that reassuring, but there is no reassurance, after all, that humankind will be able to prevent massive ecological collapse. It is a hard hope.
Profile Image for Sayani.
83 reviews7 followers
May 27, 2021
Crow Planet is a wonderful book on crow behavior and how it reflects our sustenance in the environment. If you haven't been living under the stone then you must have noticed there are more crows than they were ten years before. Urbanization has accelerated the crow population in our towns and cities. Them being the most intelligent birds and omnivores have resulted in their success. They even have something akin to respecting their dead which was a revelation for me. Few weeks back just after I came back from work I could hear many crows cawing in a fashion which was unusual. Even without witnessing any previous crow death I knew they had gathered around in distress. A baby crow had got its wing entangled in a kite string and fell on the roadside in front of my house that afternoon. Revering the dead in 'crow culture' has not been academically studied but has been witnessed by plenty.
So with the success of crows, it becomes a challenge for us to coexist with these creatures. Lyanda speaks not only of crows but sparrows, pigeons, doves and warblers. Nature seeps in through cracks in our concrete jungles. The sooner we educate ourselves and our children to embrace that we came and occupied the homes of these creatures and not the other way around the better we are at understanding climate change. It just makes sense. If you see a crow pecking at a roadkill early in the morning you cringe at the sight. Most of us do. But that is the wild before you. Life and death. Appreciating nature from truly a recreational and artificial frivolous purpose is what is the result of our urban lives. Not that is it wrong but it isn't enough. If you love manicured lawns with expertly trimmed hydrangeas you should try to find more about mushroom farming too. Explore alternative avenues to learn more about symbiotic living.
Profile Image for Shawn.
605 reviews13 followers
January 23, 2015
I picked this up rather carelessly in a small-town bookstore while visiting, and was disappointed (my fault) to find that it's not really mostly about crows. It's really mostly about how the author's observations of crows have led her to become more aware of the natural world in her suburban Seattle neighborhood and to contemplate humans' place in that world.

I was somewhat annoyed with her insistence that crows are for most city and suburban Americans the most commonly experienced native wildlife. She does mention West Nile virus, but seems largely unaware of the fact that in many places in the eastern third of the country crows have become relatively rare as a result of the devastation of local populations by the virus. Here in the Milwaukee area, while I remember times in the 90s and before when they were abundant, I am unlikely to see any on an average 2 or 3-mile walk in the north suburbs, and never more than a couple.
Profile Image for Patricia.
615 reviews16 followers
October 30, 2018
Of course, it was full of interesting crow information, but what made the book inspiring was her practical, doable guide to how to love nature like a naturalist and her tenacious grip on hopefulness. I especially loved her "grown-up optimism." In spite of many reasons to feel despairing about the future of the earth, Haupt concludes "our bondedness with the rest of creation, a sense of profound interaction, and a belief in our shared ingenuity give meaning to our lives and actions on behalf of the more than human world."
Profile Image for Peyton Price.
Author 18 books23 followers
October 5, 2011
This is the book that inspired me to write Suburban Haiku. Lyanda's message to answer your calling wherever you may be opened my eyes to the beauty of nature in the suburbs.
March 13, 2013
Very few books have had this impact on my daily life. My binoculars are always in my purse. I notice a lot more. Today I watched a caterpillar for 10 minutes!
Profile Image for Nicole.
43 reviews6 followers
December 19, 2016
This is a thoughtful and often very charming, well-constructed meditation. A nice addition to the urban naturalist's library.
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