Corvus: A Life with Birds

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9781847080295: Corvus: A Life with Birds

Esther Woolfson has been fascinated by corvids, the bird group that includes crows, rooks, magpies and ravens, since her daughter rescued a fledgling rook sixteen years ago. That rook - named Chicken - has lived with the family ever since. Other birds have also taken their place in the household - a magpie, starling, parrot and the inhabitants of an outdoor dovehouse. But above all, it has been the corvids (a talking magpie named Spike, Chicken the rook, and, recently, a baby crow named Ziki) that she has formed the closest attachments with, amazed by their intelligence, personality and capacity for affection.Living with birds has allowed Woolfson to learn aspects of bird behaviour which would otherwise have been impossible to know - the way they happily become part of the structure of a family, how they communicate, their astonishing empathy. We hear about Chicken's fears and foibles: her hatred of computers and other machines and her love of sitting on Woolfson's knee in the evening and having her neck scratched; the birds' elaborate bathing rituals, springtime broodiness, and tendency to cache food in the most unlikely places. Woolfson tells the darker story of way corvids have always been objects of superstition and persecution; and with the lightest of touches, she weaves in the science of bird intelligence, evolution, song and flight throughout. Her account of her experiences is funny, touching and beautifully written, and gives fascinating insights into the closeness human beings can achieve with wild creatures.

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About the Author:

Esther Woolfson was brought up in Glasgow and studied Chinese at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Edinburgh University. Her acclaimed short stories have appeared in many anthologies and have been read on Radio 4. She has won prizes both for them and for nature writing. She has been the recipient of a Scottish Arts Council Travel Grant and a Writer's Bursary. She lives in Aberdeen.

From Publishers Weekly:

Starred Review. Shortly after settling with her husband and two daughters in a rambling Edwardian house in Aberdeen, Scotland, the gift of several pairs of doves inspired UK novelist and nature writer Woolfson to convert her new coal shed into a dovecote. The doves were followed by housebirds: a cockatiel for their daughter, a flightless rosella parrot the pet store couldn't get rid of, and a succession of unfledged birds rescued by neighbors. Woolfson learned how to care for everything from infant birds to elderly parrots with dysfunctional backgrounds; the menagerie eventually includes a swearing starling, a young rook named Chicken, and Spikey the magpie. Describing how her birds communicate (nearly all the house birds talk), she reveals distinct personalities and idiosyncrasies; she also discusses birds in the wild and natural history, and her neurologist husband is particularly keen on bird brains. The highly intelligent Corvus genus, including crows, magpies, rooks and ravens, fascinate Woolfson the most, and she transmits their appeal with startling clarity. Additionally, Helen Macdonald's beautiful illustrations add resonance to each chapter's subject. A satisfying read from a masterful stylist, this will appeal to any fan of nature writing or personal essays.

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Esther Woolfson
Published by Granta Books (2008)
ISBN 10: 1847080294 ISBN 13: 9781847080295
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Woolfson, Esther
Published by Granta Books (2008)
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