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In the Company of Crows and Ravens Paperback – 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Historically feared, hunted and otherwise maligned, corvids (crows, ravens and the like) have finally found in the coauthors two champions of their cause. Professor Marzluff and artist and writer Angell, in their decades of observing crows and ravens (Angell's illustrations complement the text), have compiled an eye-popping catalogue of crow feats: Japanese carrion crows use moving cars as nutcrackers; Seattle crows, after being trapped by the authors, have learned to avoid them, even in the midst of thousands of UW-students; and, given the choice between french fries in a plain bag or a McDonald's bag, crows choose the branded bag every time. Marzluff and Angell entertain with these stories, but find less success with their arguments that no other animal has been as influential to human culture, and the two species have been for centuries involved in a "cultural coevolution." In essence, shifts in our culture cause crows to adapt, and in response, our culture responds, ad infinitum. They provide a litany of examples of crow influences on human culture (think Counting Crows, cave art and doctors dressed up as crows during the Black Death) and point to the similarities between human and crow cultures (particularly that of social learning) as evidence for the book's unofficial maxim: "to know the crow is to know ourselves." While the claims made here may over-reach, Marzluff and Angell passionately argue crows' importance, and along the way, provide ample evidence of corvid ingenuity.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Crows are one of the few birds that everyone can recognize. As ubiquitous members of the worldwide corvid family (which also includes the ravens, jays, magpies, and their kin), the more than 40 distinct species of crows have formed both practical and mythic relationships with their human neighbors. In this delightful blend of science, art, and anthropology, biologist Marzluff and illustrator Angell, both fascinated by the corvids, demonstrate why the crows and ravens are worthy of study and respect. Crows and ravens are adaptable, intelligent, and able to learn, remember, and use insight to solve problems. They use unique methods to obtain food, such as pulling up the lines of ice fishermen and rolling walnuts under car wheels. Humans have long noted these large, black, brainy birds, and their images have entered human culture (we "eat crow," open things with a "crowbar") and human mythology (the Norse god Odin was guided by two ravens). The text travels easily from science to folklore to literature, which, along with Angell's lively black-and-white illustrations, recommends this book highly. Nancy Bent
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Many parts of this book are “better-than-average” to “very good”. The topic(s) are certainly very interesting and the author addresses them with commendable scholarship and skill.
The author has also provided a vast scope of information about the Corvids and their long-standing relation(s) with humans.
Alas, it's only fair and right to forewarn readers of a serious “downside” to this book. To be fair to Mr. Marzluff and his amigos, it's a flaw common to books edited by academics instead of people who make their full-time living as editors.
The primary text of the edition I have ends on page 307.
It could have, would have, and should have ended on about page 225 – but didn't simply because of the excessive redundancy of
points and assertions. As just one example, one of the author's main themes is that urbanization and closer association with humans has benefited Crow populations at the expense of other species. That point is used here like the refrain of a song. Think about the old party song “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” and recall how many times you will sing: “...take one down and pass it around...” by the time the song is finished. Now you have an idea of how many times Marzluff thinks you need to be told that Crows benefited from urbanization.
HOWEVER... I saved two more very positive and important (imho) observations for now.
Pages 308 – 311 contain a brief list of books about Crows – for children. Being a very, very firm believer in raising children outdoors and NOT in front of the TV, I think this time-saving little list is a GREAT inclusion here.
In other news, Tony Angell's many drawings gracing this book do add (again, imho) an especially valuable facet to the book. After all, Crows and Ravens are not the easiest birds to draw and making bird drawings (or photos) with poses that are both natural and pretty has perplexed bird aficionados, artists and photographers since Genesis. It is abundantly clear that Mr. Angell has studied his subjects at great length and his renderings are splendid.
These birds have been around for thousands of years and are extremely misunderstood, their intelligence is unlike any other of the animal world. One characteristic I found interesting is that Crows pass on information socially and much like the way people learn in our society.
The author discusses the fact that these birds are intelligent and adaptable and survivors much like mankind. I found the book extremely useful as I wanted to know more about Ravens and Crows, the author goes to great efforts to accurately describe the detailed life of these birds interacting with the natural and man made world. One aspect I wasn't aware of is that the Raven came across the Bering Straits with the Wolf prior to the arrival of man, the author explains that the Raven is often referred to as a "Wolf Bird". The thing I found interesting is that the more man develops and populates in cities the more these birds populate and prosper in their cultural co-evolution. I highly recommend this book to anyone that is seeking to learn more about the medicine of these intelligently powerful and mysterious birds.