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Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans Hardcover – June 5, 2012

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Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans + In the Company of Crows and Ravens + Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; 1 edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 143919873X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439198735
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #217,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A great read, this book is a tribute to the little-known and underappreciated minds of the birds of the amazing corvid family. Serious and at times hilarious, it pulled me in with its telling anecdotes and scientific context. Most importantly, it acknowledges and explores the many complex similarities between crows' mental traits and our own." --Bernd Heinrich, author of Mind of the Raven

“Researchers writing about comparative human and nonhuman cognition always make brief, obligatory reference to the underlying neurological and hormonal systems, but Marzluff and Angell actually provide us with the details. In lucid, logical, and articulate prose, they carefully explain all the interrelated mechanisms involved in the fascinating behavior patterns of their corvid subjects and how these mechanisms relate to those of humans. Their book is indeed a gift, not only to those of us eager to learn about corvid behavior but also but also to those who wish to understand the bases for these actions.” –Irene M. Pepperberg, author of Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Uncovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process

“John Marzluff and Tony Angell's amazing, true stories of crows who rage, grieve, give gifts, work together, and even design and use tools would be enough to make this book a great read. But these maverick scientists go a step further, and actually show how these birds' big brains, though different from our own, achieve many of the same feats. Gifts of the Crow is a gift to all of us who have argued for years that humans don't possess the only minds in the universe. This is one of the most exciting books I've read in a long time.” --Sy Montgomery, author of Birdology

"In this important work, you’ll find stunning examples of crow emotionality and intelligence -- a triumphant vindication for those who have known all along that animals are capable of much more than they’re generally given credit for. Crows dream as part of their learning process, for instance, and profile other individuals’ behavior and act accordingly. In many ways, their intelligence is equal to that of the great apes. Fascinating." --Stacey O'Brien, author of Wesley the Owl

“Gifts of the Crow is a compelling book. Filled with wonderful stories of regular people’s interactions with ravens, crows, and jays, it also cites engrossing scientific studies, reports on the field work of biologists, and offers detailed explanations of how the brain of a corvid actually works. I was fascinated.” -- Suzie Gilbert, author of Flyaway: How A Wild Bird Rehabber Sought Adventure and Found Her Wings

"Throughout much of human history crows have been our constant companions. In their exciting new book, Marzluff and Angell, show us how crows brains work, while providing the evidence that these cerebral birds have a lot more in common with us than we ever imagined. And Angell's illustrations alone make the book worth the price." --Paul R. Ehrlich, co-author of The Birder's Handbook

"Full of clear and detailed accounts of research...remarkable." (NYTimes)

"Angell’s illustrations of birds are exquisitely detailed... the book will instill in many readers a sense of wonder and curiosity at what these birds can do. An insightful look at some of our surprisingly capable feathered friends." (Kirkus)

"Amazing" (Seattle Times)

“Delightful… a series of intriguing stories and stunning illustrations that together reveal the sophisticated cognitive abilities of crows and their relation­ship with humans." (Nature)

"With its abundance of funny, awe-inspiring, and poignant stories, Gifts of the Crow portrays creatures who are nothing short of amazing. A testament to years of painstaking research and careful observation, this fully illustrated, riveting work is a thrilling look at one of nature's most wondrous creatures." (

“A remarkable look at just how smart the common crow and raven are… Highly recommended.” (Library Journal)

About the Author

John Marzluff, Ph.D., is Professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington. The author of four books and over one hundred scientific papers on various aspects of bird behavior, he is the recipient of the A. Brazier Howell, Board of Directors, and H.R. Painton awards from the Cooper Ornithological Society.
Tony Angell has authored and/or illustrated a dozen award-winning books related to natural history.

More About the Author

I am a Professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington. My graduate (Northern Arizona University) and initial post-doctoral (University of Vermont) research focused on the social behavior and ecology of jays and ravens. I was especially interested in communication, social organization, and foraging behavior. My current research brings this behavioral approach to pressing conservation issues including conservation of endangered species, urban ecology, and the varied connections between crows and people. I enjoy blending biology, conservation, and anthropology to suggest that human and crow cultures have co-evolved. My most recent work applies a neurobiological perspective to understand the amazing feats of corvids (crows, ravens, jays and their kin). In addition to teaching, research, and writing, I am a member of the board of editors for Acta Ornithologica and Ecological Applications, and leader of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Recovery Team for the critically endangered Mariana Crow, a former member of the Washington Biodiversity Council, and a Fellow of the American Ornithologist's Union.

I enjoy fishing, hiking, downhill skiing, and sea kayaking. My wife, Colleen, and I have always had dogs. We detail our growing addiction to sled dogs in Dog Days, Raven Nights, but now live with 3 border collies. We have two daughters.

I read mostly non-fiction. I love works about the west including those by William O. Douglas, Wallace Stegner, and Douglas Brinkley.

Customer Reviews

Would highly recommend the book who loves crows!
The notes are very informative, but even more technical as they explain the science that is touched on throughout the book.
P. Mikell
In many ways this is a wonderful book, filled with valuable information about crows and ravens.
fig tree

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

164 of 175 people found the following review helpful By Hertfordshire Chris on June 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
With one significant reservation I really enjoyed this book. I love watching birds visiting the feeders in my garden, especially the magpies, and knew that the crow family included some of the most intelligent birds. I am also, as you will know if you have read my blog, very interested in animal intelligence, and what it can tell us about human intelligence. This book contains some wonderful accounts of, for example, the ability of crows to recognise individual people, and the account of ravens surfing the Colorado winds makes one wonder what other things they can get up to which have not yet been documented. Details are brought together of many accounts of apparently intelligent behaviour, together with descriptions of well planned experiments, which combine to make you realize how smart some birds really are. For those who want to explore further there are extra notes and an extensive bibliography. If you are interested in animal intelligence or bird behaviour this book is a "must read".

The problem is that really it is not one book but two. The part I have described is concerned with the behavioural evidence which demonstrates the intelligent behaviour in the crow family. It is written in an easy to read style - and the description on the dust cover confines itself to this part of the book, suggesting that the publishers were also aware of the problem and avoided mentioning something which could put some readers off. There is no doubt that if the book stopped at the point I described above I would be very happy to give a copy to an intelligent 12 year old bird watching enthusiast and suggest that they start looking for, and recording, the behaviour of the crows and magpies they see.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 25, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I got this book for the Kindle, and wanted to read it myself. However, my spouse, who was not so much a bird person, took a liking to it, and loaded it to his Kindle first.

For the past two weeks as he's read this book, I get daily reports of how interesting the book is, how amazing these birds are, and what great anecdotes the author includes. The crows really do bring "gifts" to people they like. And they remember people as well.

The book goes into a bit of the brain structure and in depth about genetically as well. When I read it, I may skip over the more technical and scientific aspects of the work. But I am happy to report that my observations about bird behavior, their habits and likes and fears, dovetails with what this author presents based on science and experiments, not just a layman's observations. I'm very pleased to report that my spouse has dropped the expression "bird brain" to indicate someone without cognitive powers. Now in our household there are two bird lovers.

When I have a chance to read it, I'll update it from my non-scientific point of view. But, for all the good conversation it has already stimulated, it is worth reading.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By KLC on August 2, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Gifts of the Crow will facinate anyone who reads the book. They are so smart it's no wonder they are called "the feathered apes!" The documented stories of their adventures will interest bird lovers. There is quite a bit of technical data in the book which could discourage some folks, but stay with it so you don't miss any of the great stories. I personally am conducting a "Crow feeding experiment" of my own and have received 2 gifts from the Crow clan. KLC
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Casketspider on October 7, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Fantastic Book! On my second reading. So much info and just increases my love of these animals.Anyone who loves our feathered friends will surely enjoy and learn much from reading this.
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20 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Book Fanatic TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a very strange book. It mixes the most unscientific anecdotal stories with seemingly endless descriptions of bird brain neurobiology into a mix that simply didn't work for me. One minute you are reading some charming anecdote about a raven and almost in mid-sentence you are dumped into long descriptions of neurotrasnmitters and brain structures.

If this book would have presented itself as stories about Crows and Ravens and other Corvids that should stimulate us to study them or wonder about them or marvel at their complex lives, then I wouldn't have had a problem with it. However the authors present anecdotes, some which stretch credulity to the limit, as science. They inform you that these anecdotes are reliable because "We interviewed the people who provided them." Well there you go.

Some or parts of some of these stories may be true. The fact that the authors interviewed the people who told them is irrelevant. Some of the speculation and interpretation the authors make of those stories may turn out to be correct. I am endlessly fascinated by these creatures and have been since I read "The Mind of the Raven". However I simply cannot stand the way these authors presented them and their arrogant assumptions thereof. This is psuedoscience pure and simple. If I hadn't read it I wouldn't have believed it.

I think I learned something about the behavior of these birds and it made me want to look for them around my City. I live in Houston, TX and the crow population here seems to have been seriously impacted by West Nile Virus. I simply don't see them around nearly as much as I used to.

In any case I don't recommend this book unless you want to pick out the anecdotes and take them for what they are - anecdotes.
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