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Publisher's Summary

New research indicates that crows are among the brightest animals in the world. And professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington John Marzluff has done some of the most extraordinary research on crows, which has been featured in the New York Times, National Geographic, and the Chicago Tribune, as well as on NPR and PBS. Now he teams up with artist and fellow naturalist Tony Angell to offer an in-depth look at these incredible creatures - in a book that is brimming with surprises.

Redefining the notion of “bird brain,” crows and ravens are often called feathered apes because of their clever tool-making and their ability to respond to environmental challenges, including those posed by humans. Indeed, their long lives, social habits, and large complex brains allow them to observe and learn from us and our social gatherings. Their marvelous brains allow crows to think, plan, and reconsider their actions. In these and other enthralling revelations, Marzluff and Angell portray creatures that are nothing short of amazing: They play, bestow gifts on people who help or feed them, use cars as nutcrackers, seek revenge on animals that harass them, are tricksters that lure birds to their deaths, and dream.

The authors marvel at crows' behavior that we humans would find strangely familiar, from delinquency and risk-taking to passion and frolic. A testament to years of painstaking research, this riveting work is a thrilling look at one of nature's most wondrous creatures.

©2012 John Marzluff and Tony Angell (P)2012 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"A great read, serious and at times hilarious, this book explores the many complex similarities between crows' mental traits and our own." (Bernd Heinrich, author of Summer World)

What listeners say about Gifts of the Crow

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

You Will Never Look At A Crow The Same Way Again

I never stop being amazed at the world in which we live. Who would have thought that the ubiquitous crow could hold such wonders?

The author explores the mysteries of the crow, raven and other members of the corvid family (look it up in Wikipedia--I had to) to bring the reader a new appreciation of the uncanny intelligence of these creatures who have not only coexisted but thrived in the company of humans for millennia. In turn, these birds have had a powerful impact on human culture around the world as evidenced by mythologies and folktales in North America, Europe and Asia.

The author explores many aspects of corvid behavior which testify to their high-level thinking. The anecdotes he recites range from the hilarious to the poignant to the downright amazing. Just a few of the behaviors discussed are tool use, gift-giving, play (both with other crows and with other species), strategic thinking, grief, language production/comprehension, and cultural memory.

Significant portions of the book are of a scientific nature in terms of evolutionary biology and neuroanatomy. While initially interesting, these sections typically became fairly technical in nature and offered information that was more complex than what I either wanted or could absorb. More scientifically proficient readers may well appreciate these sections and there is a downloadable pdf. accompanying the book which is available on the publisher's website.

Still, I very much felt this was a worthwhile book. Who would not want to gain a better appreciation for and understanding of this familiar neighbor? It has inspired me to look for new ways to interact with these remarkable creatures in my own life!

18 people found this helpful

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A beautiful methodology

A little heavy on scientific language but the explanation is helped by colloquial stories and annotated graphics. The fascinating information in this book is presented within a delicate balance of personal and scientific observation.

3 people found this helpful

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Enjoyable, but dense

I would buy this book again if I were to go back in time, but I did not enjoy this book as much as some others. It is interesting, informative, and we'll done, but a bit technical in its execution. But this if you have a good amount of interest, but take a pass if you're not that into biology

2 people found this helpful

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wonderful for anyone with an interest in neuroscie

I work in animal behaviour, but not as a researcher, so this was perfect for me. A few steps past what most lay people will tolerate, but not pro level. Very informative and extremely interesting!

1 person found this helpful

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Entertaining but missing something

The stories about animal behavior are wonderful. And the narrator is fine. The problem I had is that while I would happily repeat the stories to others, I did not feel confident about the science that was presented that explained the behavior. Happy I bought it because of the anecdotes, though.

1 person found this helpful

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Neurobiology 101, Via the Crow

Where does Gifts of the Crow rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Some people who write about birds try to entertain with anecdote that is short of scientific explanation. Not Marzluff and Angell. Consider this excerpt from the book: "The prairie vole is among the most monogamous of its species. Again, it is a brew of chemicals including dopamine and two hormones, vasopressin and oxytocin, that interact in the nucleus accumbens, septum, palladium, and prefrontal cortex of a vole's brain to guide its monogamous nature (the binding of chemicals to neurons is illustrated in your bonus material as are the brain regions important to social behavior).That's a fairly typical passage. The authors do provide intriguing anecdotes about crow behavior. But whereas some other books leave the reader hanging as to explanations for the surprising stories, Marzluff and Angell undertake to explain, in some detail, often discussing the interplay of hormones in a bird's brain. They repeatedly refer listeners to the supplemental material for more detail. For me, that often meant listening again and again to the same passage, trying to grasp what I was being told. I enjoyed that. I can't call it leisure reading, exactly. I did think it was fun, and I hope I retain it. I may have to get the hardcover book to make sure I do. Such material can be tough to address in an audiobook. I think the authors do a good job.

What other book might you compare Gifts of the Crow to and why?

Maybe Bernd Heinrich's "Mind of the Raven," which also takes a rigorous approach.

Have you listened to any of Danny Campbell’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

I wouldn't. But I'd buy the hard copy and read it several times over.

Any additional comments?

I wish Audible carried more books about birds. They're amazing.

1 person found this helpful

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Worth a Second Listen For Me

I actually listened to this audiobook twice because I had to wait to get the supplemental pdf material that contained helpful diagrams and illustrations. I felt the content was worth the time to understand more fully.

Personally, I found the information engaging, important, and clearly explained for a lay person. As humans, I believe we need to respect all of the creatures we share our planet with. And members of the crow family most certainly deserve our consideration and awe.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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I Really Wanted to Like This Book

What disappointed you about Gifts of the Crow?

The unscientific anecdotes were treated as reliable scientific evidence.

Have you listened to any of Danny Campbell’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment

Any additional comments?

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.

5 people found this helpful

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Intelligent Corvids! Crows, Magpies, Ravens, & Jays.

What an entertaining book about crows and their close relatives. Poignant little stories are given with scientific research and many big words. “Crows gather around their dead, warn of impending doom, recognize people, commit murder of other crows, lure animals to their death, swill coffee and drink beer, design and use tools - including using cars as nutcrackers, and windsurf and sled to play“. Just like us. They are playful troublemakers and would make amazing pets if that were only legal ( I wish). They can even mimic human voices! There is a lot of crow brain biology included which, I admit, slowed down my reading progress in the beginning of the book, but once into the book, the stories of people and crows and tender and comical. I think any person who, even casually, likes to observe wildlife will enjoy this book.

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Crows from A to Z

Very easy to listen to this reader. A explanation how crows think as well as an in depth explanation how a ravens brain works drilling down to the neurological connections and endorphins which drive these birds to survive. You will realize that a crows are every bit as smart as dolphins.