Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans

Written by John Marzluff and Tony Angell Illustrated by Tony Angell

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.

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Featured On Episode #213

Bird Brains

This week, we’re looking at birds, and what the study of their behavior and anatomy can tell us about ourselves. We’ll talk to Dr. John Marzluff, professor of Avian social ecology and demography at the University of Washington, about his book Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans. And we’ll speak to artist and illustrator Katrina van Grouw about The Unfeathered Bird, her book that looks at bird anatomy below the feathery surface.

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