John M. Marzluff is Denman Professor of Sustainable Resource Sciences and professor of wildlife science, College of Forest Resources, University of Washington. Tony Angell is a freelance artist and writer in Lopez Island, Washington. Together the authors combine more than 60 years of scientific and artistic fascination with crows and their bird relatives.
Savage, Candace. Crows: Encounters with the Wise Guys of the Avian World. Greystone, dist. by Publishers Group West. Oct. 2005. illus. index. ISBN 1-55365-106-5. $20. NAT HIST Even the most ornithologically challenged recognize and notice crows-they're big and black, loud, social, and smart. Now come two superb studies that should deepen our understanding, and perhaps appreciation, of these fascinating birds and their corvid cousins, ravens. Marzluff (wildlife science, Coll. of Forest Resources, Univ. of Washington) and artist Angell aim for readers to get to know the "whole animal." To that end, these intrepid researchers go to extraordinary lengths, even eating crow (literally: they claim it is scrumptious). Their book offers a satellite view of the corvid bird family, but pays particular attention to the American Crow-its evolution, biology, complex social rituals, tool-handling capabilities, and communication skills. The authors are especially interested in the changing relationships between humans and corvids across time and place, how our culture has affected crows, and how crow "culture" has affected us. In particular, they advance the idea of "cultural coevolution," wherein interaction between corvids and humans leads to social learning and the evolution of each group's culture. Savage (Bird Brains: The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies and Jays) offers a witty life history of the crow interlaced with stories, poems, songs, and pictures that support the bird's strong mythic hold on the human imagination over the course of our shared history. (She also helps us appreciate researchers' struggle to turn trickster crows into cooperative study subjects.) Though Angell's more than 100 charming drawings and the authors' clear zest for their subjects may lend In the Company of Crows and Ravens popular appeal, this is a serious book well suited for academic or large public collections. Brief and beautifully illustrated, Crows, on the other hand, is a more accessible book and a perfect choice for general collections. But readers of either book are very likely to agree with Savage that "any day with a crow in it is full of promise."-Robert Eagan, Windsor P.L., Ont. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
"'Crows and people share similar traits and social strategies. To a surprising extent, to know the crow is to know ourselves.' from the Preface 'This is a work bursting with fresh ideas, rich in speculation, while also managing to survey, in highly accessible terms, the full spectrum of research into this fascinating bird group." BBC Wildlife Magazine '... engrossing...' Rebecca Solnit, London Review of Books '... a book rich in descriptive language and juicy with insight and biological detail.' New Scientist 'There is a wealth of folklore, biology and anecdote here about all species of crows - a cornucopia of corvid memorabilia. This is a well-researched, fascinating book to read, evocatively illustrated by Angell's charming idiosyncratic scraperboards.' Tim Birkhead, Times Literary Supplement"