February 14, 2013

Gifts of the Crow - review

Gifts of the Crow
authors John Marzluff and Tony Angell
published January 2013
publisher Atria Paperback
source publisher

I grew up in middle Georgia where there were many pine trees with birds and squirrels living in these trees.   My daddy kept a bag of pecans in the trunk of his car.   Every day, he came home from work, whistled, and the birds and squirrels came flying and scampering to him for a free dinner.   Some took food from his hands.

One bird my dad did not like was the blue jay.  If he saw them eating in the back yard, he would bang on the window trying to scare them off.   I wish he was living now, he would enjoy reading Gifts of the Crow.  He then would appreciate these jays more, because of their sophisticated intelligence.

The subtitle of the book "how perception, emotion, and thought allow smart birds to behave like humans" lets us know we will read details of how the crows and other relatives in the corvid family have seven key human characteristics, such as delinquency, frolic, passion and wrath.    Author John Marzluff says, "To fully exploit us, as crows have done, requires a quick brain that associates risk with reward, adjusts to failure, and tempered first responses with emotion."    Marzluff has watched birds for three decades, and still sees them do something new.

There are many anecdotes about crows, magpies, and other corvids.   I thoroughly enjoyed reading about them, however I skipped the pages and brain-maps that told about their neurology systems -- too scientific for me!  I would have preferred to see photos of some of the birds.

Marzluff says he hopes that people will learn "that to call someone a "birdbrain" is a compliment, not an insult."  It is great to share our backyards with these crows and jays.

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