In the Company of Crows and Ravens
by John Marzluff and Tony Angell
Publisher: Yale University Press
Size: 2 MB
Historically feared, hunted and otherwise maligned, corvids (crows, ravens and the like) have finally found in the coauthors two champions of their cause. Professor Marzluff and artist and writer Angell, in their decades of observing crows and ravens (Angell's illustrations complement the text), have compiled an eye-popping catalogue of crow feats: Japanese carrion crows use moving cars as nutcrackers; Seattle crows, after being trapped by the authors, have learned to avoid them, even in the midst of thousands of UW-students; and, given the choice between french fries in a plain bag or a McDonald's bag, crows choose the branded bag every time. Marzluff and Angell entertain with these stories, but find less success with their arguments that no other animal has been as influential to human culture, and the two species have been for centuries involved in a "cultural coevolution." In essence, shifts in our culture cause crows to adapt, and in response, our culture responds, ad infinitum. They provide a litany of examples of crow influences on human culture (think Counting Crows, cave art and doctors dressed up as crows during the Black Death) and point to the similarities between human and crow cultures (particularly that of social learning) as evidence for the book's unofficial maxim: "to know the crow is to know ourselves." While the claims made here may over-reach, Marzluff and Angell passionately argue crows' importance, and along the way, provide ample evidence of corvid ingenuity.
Featuring more than 100 original drawings, the book takes a close look at the influences people have had on the lives of crows throughout history and at the significant ways crows have altered human lives. In the Company of Crows and Ravens illuminates the entwined histories of crows and people and concludes with an intriguing discussion of the crow-human relationship and how our attitudes toward crows may affect our cultural trajectory.