Crow Intelligence

Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like HumansGifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans by John M. Marzluff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OK, so I started out interested in animal intelligence and had heard the author talk about the book a while back. I was primed to like it, and I did.

Of course I enjoyed the stories most. Crows and their relative corvids are fascinating as they solve problems, make tools, and recognize people. In fact, with mirror experiments, there is even the possibility of self recognition! ETA: One fascinating fact: Birds can sleep one brain hemisphere at a time. Helps on those long migration flights.

Woven among the stories is neuroscience in understandable terms. One could learn the detailed differences in fear and pleasure routes in the crow brain or one could get the generalities, as I did. The text was uncluttered by footnotes or numbers, but there were end notes referencing pages for the more serious researcher. There was a clear indication of what was known, what was hypothetical, and what needed more research. I especially appreciated sections where there were alternate theories presented and the data behind each.

The crow brain, while differently formed than the human functions similarly with “loops” of electrons that allow present to be compared to past and actions to be adjusted to the comparison. Another fascinating chapter on language showed the anatomy that allows crows (without lips and soft tongue) to form speech that sounds like humans. A story that accompanied that was about a crow that could call dogs so convincingly that there were several around it. Also interesting was the chapter on play, not only the descriptions of playfulness, but the explanation of the meaning of play to crow survival.

I”m thinking that studies of animal intelligence today function somewhat like Galileo’s earth-around-the-sun to displace human species self centeredness, a shift reinforced by the book’s conclusion.

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3 Comments

Filed under books, nature

3 responses to “Crow Intelligence

  1. Sounds like an interesting book. I recently read one about grey parrots – the first birds studied intensively because most researchers considered the bird brain too small to be of interest.

  2. Cher

    love your review. encourages me to want to read it myself…thanks

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