Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Curious about Corvids

When I was little, my mother always warned me to never chase or tease crows because crows remember you. I think my mom's superstition came more from folklore and general proximity to crows and their behavior than from anything else. As it turns out though, crows do remember you, and apparently they have a pretty long memory. Right now I'm reading Gifts of the Crow, a fascinating look at the behavior and brain function of corvids (crows, ravens, magpies, and jays). It talks about how the corvid brain can to do many of the things ape (including human) brains can do, but arrived there by a different evolutionary track. Corvids use tools, solve problems and, yes, form memories.

Maybe it was my mom telling me to watch out for those crows when I was young, but I developed a preoccupation with crows and their behavior and my library grew to reflect that. Here are a few of my favorites.

Gifts of the Crow, by John Marzluff and Tony Angell: Has a lot of very informative and entertaining anecdotes about corvid behavior. Parts of it explain the evolution and functions of the brain, which can be little hard to get through if you don't know much about neurobiology, but I don't think anything is lost if you skim through those parts.
Crow Planet, by Lyanda Lynn Haupt : More crow behavior and observational stories
Mind of the Raven, by Bernd Heinrich: Observations of raven behavior in the wild and in captivity
Arabel's Raven series, by Joan Aiken: A very cute and funny series of children's books about a girl named Arabel and her mischievous pet raven, Mortimer. Not a lot of science in these, but lots of funny raven behavior.

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