Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow
Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans by John
complex topic integrated into an enjoyable introduction
the chapter `Birdbrains nevermore', Marzluff offers a background on avian
neuroscience that is cutting edge. Throughout the book, Marzluff's explanations
use neural anatomy, chemistry and processes to provide a technical basis for
corvid thought and memory, with care taken to distinguish between more proven
elements and well informed conjecture. Fascinating comparisons are drawn with
human thought and memory processes. Even with diversions to appendices, these
can become slightly repetitive and it may take a couple of reads to integrate
the technical terms and expanations into anything intelligible. Comprehension is
aided by a vast number of examples, some entertaining, which are grouped in
slightly anthropomorphic titles such a `delinquency', `insight' and `frolic'.
Many readers will enjoy the book just for these natural history
takes on a difficult task, leading the reader from amusing corvid behaviour to
reasonably complex neuroscience for which full explanations are not practical.
Any dissonance this creates should be considered in terms of the magnitude of
such an undertaking - Gifts of the Crow is a worthwhile introduction which
provides an extensive bibliography for further research. The argument for corvid
intelligence is won hands down.