Mind of the Raven

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9780060930639: Mind of the Raven

In Mind of the Raven, Bernd Heinrich, award - winning naturalist, finds himself dreaming of ravens and decides he must get to the truth about this animal reputed to be so intelligent.

Much like a sleuth, Heinrich involves us in his quest, letting one clue lead to the next. But as animals can only be spied on by getting quite close Heinrich adopts ravens, thereby becoming a "raven father," as well as observing them in their natural habitat, studying their daily routines, and in the process painting a vivid picture of the world as lived by the ravens. At the heart of this book are Heinrich's love and respect for these complex and engaging creatures, and through his keen observation andanalysis, we become their intimates too.

Throughout history there has existed an extraordinary relationship between humans and ravens. Ravens, like early humans, are scavengers on the kills of great carnivores. As scavengers, ravens were associated with hunters they found in the north: wolves and, later, men. The trinity of wolf, man, and raven in the hunt is an extremely ancient one. In considering the appeal of the raven, Bernd Heinrich suspects that a meeting of the minds might reside in that hunting trinity.

Heinrich's passion for ravens has led him around the world in his research. Mind of the Raven takes you on an exotic journey--from New England to Germany, Montana to Baffin Island in the high Arctic--offering dazzling accounts of how science works in the field, filtered through the eyes of a passionate observer of nature.

Heinrich has a true gift; through his stories, his beautiful writing, illustrations, and photography, the ravens come alive. Each new discovery and insight into their behavior is thrilling to read. just as the title promises, the reader is given a rare glimpse into the mind of these wonderful creatures.

Following the dictum of Leonardo da Vinci--"It is not enough to believe what you see. YOU Must also understand what you see"--Bernd Heinrich enables us to see the natural world through the eyes of a scientist. At once lyrical and scientific, Mind of the Raven is bound to be a modern classic.

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Review:

Beyond croaking, "Nevermore," what exactly do ravens do all day? Bernd Heinrich, biology professor at the University of Vermont and author of Ravens in Winter, has spent more than a decade learning the secrets of these giants of the crow family. He has observed startlingly complex activities among ravens, including strong pair-bonding, use of tools, elaborate vocal communication, and even play. Ravens are just plain smart, and we can see much of ourselves in their behavior. They seem to be affectionate, cranky, joyful, greedy, and competitive, just like us. And in Mind of the Raven, Heinrich makes no bones about attributing emotions and intellect to Corvus corax--just not the kind we humans can understand. He mostly catalogs their behaviors in the manner of a respectful anthropologist, although a few moments of proud papa show through when he describes the pet ravens he hand-raised to adulthood.

Heinrich spends hundreds of loving hours feeding roadkill fragments to endlessly hungry raven chicks, and cold days in blinds watching wild ravens squabble and frolic. He is a passionate fan of his "wolf-birds," a name he gave them when he made the central discovery of the book: that ravens in Yellowstone National Park are dependent on wolves to kill for them. Mind of the Raven offers inspiring insight into both the lives of ravens and the mind of a truly gifted scientist. --Therese Littleton

About the Author:

Bernd Heinrich is the author of Mind of the Raven, which won the John Burroughs Medal for Natural History Writing and was a New York Times and Los Angeles Times Notable Book as well as a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Science and Technology Award. He is also the author of Bumblebee Economics, which was nominated for the National Book Award, and The Trees in My Forest, which won a New England Book Award. A professor of biology at the University of Vermont, Heinrich also spends time in the forests of western Maine, where he has done much of his field research and training for ultramarathons.

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