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

4.4 out of 5 stars 142 customer reviews

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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." (Guardian.co.uk)

“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.

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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: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (142 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #400,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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By Boria Sax on September 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is among the most complete of the many books about corvid intelligence written in the last couple of decades, but it is most innovative in its discussion of anecdotes. The majority of scientists have largely ignored these accounts, and a few have accepted them almost uncritically, but Gifts of the Crow by Marzluff and Angle goes farther than any other in systematically attempting to understand them. This book contains reports of crows that leave gifts to human benefactors, ring doorbells to obtain food, pass on hostilities to their children, call dogs by imitating human voices, hold funerals, zip open backpacks to get sandwiches, and so on.... Every one of the accounts might, taken in isolation, merit a skeptical response, but, taken together, they convincingly document the intellectual and emotional complexity of corvid behavior.

A simplistic approach might be to conclude that crows are just like human beings, but what the authors of this book do is far more helpful. They sort through dozens of anecdotes looking for patterns, as sort of approach traditionally identified more with the so-called "humanities" than with the sciences. The biggest lesson here is that one no longer needs to leave animals, in this case corvids, to the zoologists. The behavior of crows, and probably other animals, is sufficiently variable that it is possible for the interested layperson to develop unique relationships with them, and to make, or at least contribute to, new discoveries.

Full disclosure: I am a friend of the authors, and many crows as well.
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