Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans
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Stan Coren’s groundbreaking The Intelligence of Dogs meets Bernd Heinrich’s classic Mind of the Raven in this astonishing, beautifully illustrated look at the uncanny intelligence and emotions of crows.
Playful, social, and passionate, crows have brains that are huge for their body size, which allows them to think, plan, and reconsider their actions. They also exhibit an avian kind of eloquence, mate for life, and associate with relatives and neighbors for years. And to people who care for them and feed them, they often give oddly touching gifts in return.
The ongoing connection between humans and crows—a cultural coevolution—has shaped both species for millions of years. Scientist John Marzluff teams up with artist-naturalist Tony Angell to tell amazing stories of these brilliant birds. With Marzluff’s extraordinary original research on the intelligence and startling abilities of corvids—crows, ravens, and jays—Angell’s gorgeous line drawings, and a lively joint narrative, the authors offer an in-depth look at these complex creatures and the traits and behaviors we share, including language, delinquency, frolic, passion, wrath, risk taking, and awareness. 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 cars as nutcrackers—and windsurf and sled to play.
With its abundance of funny, awe-inspiring, and poignant stories, Gifts of the Crow portrays creatures who are nothing short of amazing.
brains considering the greater amounts of energy they receive from the fat-laden, processed items they regularly eat. Maintaining a large brain requires energy as well as some downtime from constant stimulation, a break from the external world. Sleep provides this as sensory inputs and muscular responses are mostly silenced, even though the sleeping brain is anything but silent. Recordings of brain activity (those familiar brain-wave charts called EEGs) reveal a series of changes as we sleep.
words conveyed the caller’s urgency and quickly attracted the dog’s attention. It was early morning, and Vampire, a young dark German shepherd, was barking and lunging in her kennel outside the house, making a ruckus sufficient to rouse her owner, Kevin Smith, from a deep slumber. Kevin went outside and commanded Vampire to be quiet, but she ignored him. Strangely, so did the instigator who continued calling out to the dog. Kevin was preparing to reprimand his dog and confront an apparently
played would be less, or at least differently, wired to a less active amygdala. We are convinced that crows and ravens gather around their dead because it is important to their own survival that they learn the causes and consequences of another crow’s death. We also suspect that mates and relatives mourn their loss. In humans, mourning serves to celebrate a former life and to reduce sadness, yearning for reunion, and intrusive thoughts about the deceased. The same could apply to crows. Human
may have more to do with the ancient and innate nature of these vocalizations than with the inability to distinguish between predators. All vertebrates have vocal centers in their midbrains that, when stimulated, elicit innate calls—a human scream, a rooster’s crow, or a corvid’s alarm call. In birds this is the nucleus intercollicularis, which receives input from the forebrain song-learning circuits, the hypothalamus, and the nearby optic tectum (these regions of the brain are illustrated in the
nose. In addition, the chemical composition of cells in the bird’s eyes responds to the angle of the earth’s magnetic field. The massive volume of raw sensory information streaming toward the brain cannot all be considered. Much of this is filtered away by a series of brain-stem relay junctions—intersections where many nerves converge. Filtering background chatter away from the brain allows animals to tune their attention to unusual and important sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and touches. Some