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Mind of the Raven [Kindle Edition]

Bernd Heinrich
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Heinrich involves us in his quest to get inside the mind of the raven. But as animals can only be spied on by getting quite close, Heinrich adopts ravens, thereby becoming a "raven father," as well as observing them in their natural habitat. He studies their daily routines, and in the process, paints a vivid picture of the ravens' world. At the heart of this book are Heinrich's love and respect for these complex and engaging creatures, and through his keen observation and analysis, we become their intimates too.

Heinrich's passion for ravens has led him around the world in his research. Mind of the Raven follows an exotic journey—from New England to Germany, and from Montana to Baffin Island in the high Arctic—offering dazzling accounts of how science works in the field, filtered through the eyes of a passionate observer of nature. Each new discovery and insight into raven behavior is thrilling to read, at once lyrical and scientific.

Editorial Reviews Review

Beyond croaking, "Nevermore," what exactly do ravens do all day? Bernd Heinrich, biology professor at the University of Vermont and author of Ravens in Winter, has spent more than a decade learning the secrets of these giants of the crow family. He has observed startlingly complex activities among ravens, including strong pair-bonding, use of tools, elaborate vocal communication, and even play. Ravens are just plain smart, and we can see much of ourselves in their behavior. They seem to be affectionate, cranky, joyful, greedy, and competitive, just like us. And in Mind of the Raven, Heinrich makes no bones about attributing emotions and intellect to Corvus corax--just not the kind we humans can understand. He mostly catalogs their behaviors in the manner of a respectful anthropologist, although a few moments of proud papa show through when he describes the pet ravens he hand-raised to adulthood.

Heinrich spends hundreds of loving hours feeding roadkill fragments to endlessly hungry raven chicks, and cold days in blinds watching wild ravens squabble and frolic. He is a passionate fan of his "wolf-birds," a name he gave them when he made the central discovery of the book: that ravens in Yellowstone National Park are dependent on wolves to kill for them. Mind of the Raven offers inspiring insight into both the lives of ravens and the mind of a truly gifted scientist. --Therese Littleton

From Publishers Weekly

In a book that demonstrates the rewards of caring and careful observation of the natural world, Heinrich (Ravens in Winter, etc.), a noted biologist, Guggenheim fellow and National Book Award nominee (for Bumblebee Economics, 1979), explores the question of raven intelligence through observation, experiment and personal experience. Although he has raised many ravens through the years (beginning with a tame pair that shared his apartment at UCLA in the 1960s), Heinrich focuses much of his attention on four nestlings he adopted from the Maine woods near his home. As he describes tending to the demanding babies, chopping up roadkill, cleaning up after them and enduring their noisy calls for food, readers will marvel at how much Heinrich knows and at how much joy he derives from acquiring that knowledge. As the birds mature, Heinrich details how these and other ravens feed, nest, mate, play and establish a society with clear hierarchical levels. At its best, his writing is distinguished by infectious enthusiasm, a lighthearted style and often lyrical descriptions of the natural world. His powers of observation are impressive and his descriptionsAof how a raven puffs its feathers in a dominance display, of how a female calls for food from her mate, of the pecking order at a carcassAare formidably precise. Toward the end of the book, Heinrich addresses the question implied by the title: To what degree can ravens be said to think? His answer: "I suspect that the great gulf or discontinuity that exists between us and all other animals is... ultimately less a matter of consciousness than of culture." Illustrations.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1276 KB
  • Print Length: 420 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; Reprint edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000V507ES
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,538 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
95 of 97 people found the following review helpful
In "Mind of the Raven", biologist Bernd Heinrich delves into the behavior of ravens as individuals who might have a conscious choice, as opposed to taking a strictly behavioral ecologist perspective of those behaviors as being simply the results of evolutionary necessity. Heinrich strives to share the insight into the world of ravens which he gained over the course of nearly a decade of studying and interacting with ravens, both wild and captive, at his Vermont and Maine homes. "Mind of the Raven" isn't confined to the birds' intelligence or consciousness, although chapters on these fascinating and controversial subjects are included. The "mind" of the book's title encompasses all behavior and experience in these birds' lives. Heinrich details innumerable observations and experiments which he conducted on the subjects of raven feeding and educating their young, cooperation, hunting, adoption, dominance, sensory perception, individual recognition, communication, fears, interaction with other animals, caching, deception, play, intelligence, and emotions. Heinrich seems to possess an insatiable -and infectious- curiosity about these magnificent birds, which is demonstrated in his exhausting and endlessly inventive experiments. Heinrich's studies are as controlled and straightforward as possible. And although they sometimes raise more questions than they answer, they never fail to entertain or to impress the reader with the complexity and variety of raven personalities. It's nice to read a book by a scientist who has such an enthusiasm for his field of study, as well as genuine affection for his subjects. "Mind of the Raven" is a very readable broad account of the lives and minds of these large, clever corvids that have so populated human folklore and experience for thousands of years. I recommend it to any bird-lover, and those who have occasion to observe ravens will find Bernd Heinrich's insights especially interesting.
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64 of 64 people found the following review helpful
This book is a wealth of information about ravens. While most of other books are set in Maine, here Heinrich travels farther afield to discuss ravens in the Arctic, Yellowstone, a pet raven in Germany, and elsewhere -- in addition to his own wild and tame ravens in Maine.

I can imagine some scientists (and others) being annoyed by Heinrich's style. His research questions are guided by his own natural curiosity and not by what the scientific community defines as important. He isn't trained as an ornithologist. Heinrich clearly depends on his own observations and does not like to delegate -- so his methods are not those of a scientist running a lab or something like a lab. For most of us, though, these "faults" make him all the more interesting. He is certainly high on the list of authors I'd like to invite to dinner.

Heinrich also seems to be a born teacher. He does a great job explaining ravens as well as explaining the process of discovery that brings him to his conclusions.

If you think that a bird can't possibly be conscious (or self-conscious), that a bird can't be intelligent, and that a bird can't have a real personality, this book will drive you nuts. If you think any of those things are *possible*, Heinrich gives you some thought-provoking stories about ravens.
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54 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gotta love this raving naturalist November 3, 2004
Bernd applies his multi-faceted brand of research to a species that is clearly close to his heart (the raven), with spectacular results. He weaves anecdotes and scientific studies together flawlessly to draw conclusions that are hard to argue with, if only because he refuses to draw unwarranted conclusions when the evidence isn't clear. He personally studies ravens in his northeastern home area, in Alaska, and in Germany to note the differences between different populations of the animal. He also draws extensively on his observations from his own aviary, where it seems he is at times obsessively painstaking in recording nuances of behavior that would fly over the heads of the average bird owner.

The Good and the Bad:
This book has been done right, with a real attempt to keep the reader's interest without compromising the scientific value of the work. The information given is enough to be compelling without being too boring about statistics. The end of the book gets a little more tilted towards hard science, with a fairly in-depth discussion about what warrants consciousness and intelligence, but there's no other conclusion that would be appropriate.

On the bad side, there are very occasional forays into self-indulgence, as when he takes the opportunity to argue the comments of a peer reviewer who contributed to the rejection of the publication of his study, or when a not-so-funny joke is recounted.

What I learned:
The raven is a remarkable animal, and consciousness evolves for as much of a specific reason as anything else. One bird might be given all of the instinct necessary to operate within a very narrow range of activity, but shorted on additional brain tissue, which is costly to maintain.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful wonderful book July 11, 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Living in the mountains of colorado, I first became aware of ravens when one followed while I was tracking elk in the back country. It followed me, flying along tree to tree, "talking" to me, cocking its head as if waiting for a reply. With that introduction, I started noticing other odd behavior... huge flocks wheeling, and playing with each other... mimicry of the calls of raptors... and so forth.
I saw this book, and thought: its about time I learn something about the minds of these animals. Why do they do what they do? Well ravens are more interesting than I thought. Makes one wonder why social scavenger-hunters (humans, coyotes, ravens) turn out so clever regardless of where they pop out of the animal kingdom.
BUT EVEN MORE IMPORTANT... Prof. Heinrich's narrative is totally engaging and entertaining. I found myself laughing over and over gain as he quietly dropped comments about famous ornithologists that have died climbing trees, or the risks involved in demonstrating which bumblebees are edible to one's experimental charges (ie showing young ravens what's good to eat). It becomes very clear ethologists are an interesting species in themselves.
If you're interested in birds, or have ravens around, or generally interested in experimental ethology: this one is among the best
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 day ago by Marcia
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fabulous book!
Published 5 days ago by Patricia Rogers
5.0 out of 5 stars Biologist supreme
A really great book by a biologist nut. Like many of his other books about his speciality.
Published 17 days ago by Jonathan C. Webster
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite books by Bernd Heinrich
One of my favorite books by Bernd Heinrich. If you are interested in details of bird life and lore, then this is a book for you. Ravens Rule!
Published 26 days ago by Pamelia D. Strayer
4.0 out of 5 stars A bird to remember
What a wonderful book. Mr. Heinrich knows his stuff and no piece of information is too small to enlighten the reader about these marvelous birds. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Readerrover
5.0 out of 5 stars best book on raising and understanding ravens
I thought that Mind of the Ravens was thorough and compassionate.I am buying several more books on Ravens and I have already ordered Ravens in Winter and World by Heinrich because... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Richard Drown Vincent
5.0 out of 5 stars a hit
Bought for my 18 year old son, he loves it.
Published 1 month ago by Didoro
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Have read all of Heinrich. Do the same.
Published 1 month ago by David H.
5.0 out of 5 stars Raven Encounters
I am now fascinated by these amazing birds. The most common bird in Southern California where I live is the crow, and they are everywhere. Read more
Published 2 months ago by D. Cavanaugh
3.0 out of 5 stars While Heinrich is definitely my favorite natural history author
While Heinrich is definitely my favorite natural history author, this book did not meet my expectations. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Easy Birder
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More About the Author

Bernd Heinrich is a biologist and author of numerous books on the natural world. He lives in Richmond, VT, and in a cabin in the forests of western Maine.

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