Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf Birds

Heinrich, B. (2006). Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf Birds. New York, NY: Harper Perennial reprint.

“I have lived and breathed ravens since a date I will remember: October 28, 1984. On the afternoon of that day, I was drawn to the commotion of a group of ravens at a moose carcass.”

These first two sentences of the book set the tone. From this moment on, Heinrich begins to take the reader on a journey of observation and discovery. It is evident throughout the book that Heinrich is fascinated with the behavior of ravens. I could sense his enthusiasm as I continued reading chapter by chapter.

Heinrich, a well-known and well-respected biologist, does a superb job of weaving his personal experiences with his captive ravens, observations of wild ravens, and outside research together into a very interesting story.  What I like most about this book and really about Heinrich as an author is the fact that he does what all good scientists should do. He uses keen observation skills, asks questions, and then tries to figure out the answers.

We could all benefit from sharpening our observation skills. While I do not have many ravens where I live, I see crows all the time. I find that I often take them for granted instead of practicing the skills that Heinrich has mastered. Some of the questions Heinrich raises throughout the book include the following:

  1. Has the capacity of curiosity allowed the corvids to flourish and diversify?  p. 38
  2. Do ravens cooperate with or form symbiotic relationships with hunters?  p. 45
  3. Do ravens recognize the difference between their own eggs and foreign eggs?  p. 154
  4. In Yellowstone National Park, are ravens dependent on wolves to overcome their shyness of a large food supply?  p. 235

Even though one question may lead to more questions, he does not stop asking. Near the conclusion, Heinrich writes, “Throughout my studies, the goal has been to understand the birds’ life in their natural environment, which provides context to almost everything about them.” Read this book, and you will be inspired to observe organisms in their natural environment.

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