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Ravens in Winter Paperback – October 1, 1991


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Ravens in Winter + Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds + Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (October 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679732365
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679732365
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #303,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Ravens are among the most elusive and yet (or, consequently) fascinating animals of North American I have ever encountered. Heinrich--an incredibly patient and cold-hardy fellow, not to mention, a heck of a writer--studied ravens in the dead of winter in Maine, and made some remarkable discoveries of how these normally solitary birds would actually engage in food sharing. Few of the many works on behavioral ecology I have read so compellingly capture the tedium of field work, the inscrutability of subject animals, and the satisfaction of discovery that provides even greater warmth than a blazing wood fire in the middle of a northern winter. Highly Recommended.

From Publishers Weekly

In 1984 Heinrich, professor of zoology at the University of Vermont, determined to find out why ravens call to each other when they discover food, a rare example of sharing in the wild. For the next four years he spent winter weekends observing these birds at a remote site in Maine, braving fierce weather, lugging enormous amounts of bait to lure ravens to his study area and sleeping in a cabin where temperatures often plunged below zero at night. The story related here, which is constructed from his field notes, moves slowly; we learn a good deal about scientific methods and a lot about patience. Overall, however, the book is suspenseful and exciting. The author follows a series of clues, some going nowhere, and others finally leading to the solution to this puzzle of animal behavior. The climactic moment comes after Heinrich, having trapped and banded more than 40 ravens, is able to discover, first, that only certain juvenile birds make the calls, and then, why they do so. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.

Customer Reviews

They are well written, very informative, and a joy to read.
Ravengirl
I'm going to have to read his book on bumblebees next--and in fact, every one of his books!
C. A CAVE
Bernd Heinrich takes a research subject and makes it very entertaining.
M. Dillon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By E. A. Lovitt HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on July 25, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Ravens in Winter" is about solving a biological puzzle: "Do common ravens, 'Corvus corax,' actively disclose to strangers of their species the valuable and rare food bonanzas that one of them is lucky enough to find?"
In order to solve his self-discovered mystery, Bernd Heinrich spent four winters in the woods of Maine and Vermont, hauling eight tons of dead animals to bait stations in the midst of howling blizzards. All in the name of fun---I mean, science.
This is one of the best, most exuberant books I've ever read on how an academic field biologist actually solves a scientific conundrum. The only other book I can compare it with is Farley Mowat's "Never Cry Wolf." Mowat was dropped alone onto the frozen Canadian tundra, where he studied the ways of wolves. Heinrich spent his winters in a tiny tarpaper shack in the Maine wilderness, galumphing through thigh-deep snow with a hundred pounds of cow entrails slung over his back, in order to study the ways of ravens.
Maine Ravens are almost exclusively carrion eaters, so in order to lure them to his observation posts the author had to feed them. He also had to crawl out of his half-frozen sleeping bag (the tarpaper shack had no amenities such as central heating) at 5:30 in the morning in order to beat the ravens to their frozen breakfast, because they are such notoriously wary birds. One false move or sound from him would send them winging away from his bait, sometimes never to return.
Heinrich makes all this sound like wonderful good fun. He periodically lured his graduate students and friends up into the endless forest and through the blizzard to help him trap and band ravens.
I wish I had been one of his students.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By M. Dillon VINE VOICE on January 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
What a wonderful book! I have never given much thought to ravens...until now. I enjoy my birdfeeders and seeing the chickadees and cardinals come to feed but now I am seeking ravens! Taking a cue from Heinrich, I plan on picking up road kill and tossing it in my yard to see if these interesting creatures will descend in my yard!
Bernd Heinrich takes a research subject and makes it very entertaining. I enjoy nature and found his passion for the out-of-doors to be contagious. He dives in and at times secludes himself from the world of humans and fully gives of himself, (including living in unbelievable cold), all on his quest to find an answer to his question; Do ravens recruit other ravens to food?
The book is laid out as; part journal, part research paper and part review of literature. I found the latter two informative. Although I was tempted to skip over the short forays into the lit reviews, I am pleased that I took the extra time to read and develop a background into the nature of the raven. The journaling that Heinrich offers is both informative and very entertaining. This is where I began to find great humor, and through Heinrich's description of his actions to investigate and study the ravens, my interest grew in learning the outcome to his ultimate question.
Here's a quote that I think sums up this book:
"We then try to justify what we do by trying to make it sound as if it has some "useful" application. But, really, we do it because it is fun. Nature is entertainment-the greatest show on earth. And that is not trivial, because what is life, if it isn't fun? I think that the greatest contribution we could make would be to help make life more interesting." -from Ravens in Winter, page 221
This book is education and most of all...fun.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Zelda Barnard on August 18, 1997
Format: Paperback
Some years ago a copy of this book came my way and
opened a new door for me which has turned into a flaming interest in the Corvids. Such vivid word pictures, such exciting findings resulting from Heinrich's research. If you love birds, this book is a must!
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
Edgar Allan Poe was a fan of Corvus corax and most definitely so is Bernd Heinrich, although as a good scientist, he doesn't romanticize and anthropomorphize the bird as Poe does. RAVENS IN WINTER is a scientific study of the behavior of Ravens in western Maine that took place over the course of a few winters in the mid 1980's. It is more than that; it's about "solving a riddle". Do Ravens "actively disclose to strangers of their species the valuable and rare food bonanzas that one of them is lucky enough to find? If so, how do they do it, and why?"
I don't know of any other such detailed studies on Ravens, except for other work that Heinrich himself has done. The author takes us through discussions on members of Corvidae (the crow family), Ravens in mythology, their intelligence, courting and display, nesting, calls, and all other matters dealing with the birds behavior. Heinrichs' illustrations of "eared", "fuzzy-headed", and "strutting" displays shows not only his artistic skills but that he is also very patient. The subtle details come only with spending a lot of time in quiet observation.
Heinrich does solve his riddle and Ravens do indeed share their food, or in the language of the study "they actively recruit". As to why, this involves the difference in behavior by juvenile birds as against adult pairs. It's juveniles that call others to the food and Heinrich offers his theory. "They are gregarious, joining other juveniles to roost and feast with, and to find an attractive mate. An unmated Raven finding food invites eligible singles to join him (or her?
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