Gifts of The Crow by John Marzluff and Tony Angell

In Indian legends crows are considered to be one of the most intelligent of birds. So I was quite surprised to discover when I first came to Australia the late seventies that in western culture of that time, birds (and other animals) were not considered to have consciousness and cognitive abilities. In our backyard the crows do not mind that the magpies, butcherbirds and noisy-miners take priority over them. They have repeatedly shown themselves to be sensitive, attentive to our feelings, sympathetic, grateful and funny birds.

I was delighted to read John Marzluff and Tony Angell’s book The Gift of the Crow. Marzluff is a professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington and has authored four books and hundreds of papers on bird behaviour. Tony Angell is has authored and illustrated numerous award winning books on natural history.

The book covers two major aspects of Crow behaviour. Firstly in great detail the authors describe the findings of research done on crows with regard to their abilities to communicate with language, play and frolic, indulge in delinquent behaviour, act with passion, take risks and display an awareness that most people have mistakenly assumed to be beyond the capabilities of birds.

The second aspect is the description of how the biochemistry and neurology of the brain of the crow would enable the crow to act with such intelligence and consciousness along with detailed exquisite illustrations.

The book is very readable and those not interested in the technical details can skip over those pages and continue to gain knowledge and insight from the general narrative.

This book turns on its heels the long held mistaken belief that birds have no consciousness opening the door for future research into the cognitive abilities of other species.



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