Who knew that crows are second only to humans as toolmakers and tool users, that they have complex family lives not unlike our own, and that their vocalizations resemble human languages? This witty, charming book introduces readers to these endlessly fascinating creatures. Author Candace Savage explores their evolution and basic biology, diet and food-gathering practices, incredible tool-using capabilities, crow “languages,” tricky social interactions, and their impact on the human imagination as reflected in mythology, literature, and popular aphorisms. Based on extensive research, the book is a lively, loving tribute to these special feathered friends.
In this charming introduction to the genus Corvus, Savage consolidates scientific research with myths and legends, to attest to the cleverness of crows, ravens, rooks and jackdaws. Savage begins with reports of tool-use by crows in New Guinea; they not only use bits of twig to dig insects out of narrow holes, but they also shape the twigs to form hooks that grab insects and prevent them from escaping. As legends show, humans have been fascinated by crows for thousands of years, and the raven plays a prominent role in many aboriginal creation myths. Synthesizing science and storytelling, Savage shows that the ancient image of crow-as-trickster bears out among contemporary researchers, who have observed such crow behavior as misrepresentation and misdirection. In addition, some species of crow show evidence of language skills and even artistic sensibility (as in the case of a winged shell collector). They also exhibit cooperative child-rearing, as well as grieving behavior after losing a mate or chick. Though this illuminating book ends too quickly, readers wishing to follow up on the clever Corvus will be quite pleased with Savage's detailed footnotes and lengthy list of references.