Cover image for Mind of the raven : investigations and adventures with wolf-birds
Mind of the raven : investigations and adventures with wolf-birds
Heinrich, Bernd, 1940-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Cliff Street Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
xix, 380 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QL696.P2367 H445 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
QL696.P2367 H445 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The common raven, Corvus corax, is the world's largest crow, measuring from 22 to 27 inches long, and it can be found in much of North America. Heinrich, a University of Vermont biologist and illustrator, is the author of The Trees in My Forest, a homage to the rhythms of life in his 300-acre Maine forest, and Ravens in Winter. He has studied ravens at his Vermont home, at his Maine cabin, and as far away as the Arctic. Here, he writes about this highly intelligent bird's fascinating behavior, the result of his observations, experiments, and experiences (including raising young ravens to adulthood, giving them such names as Fuzz and Houdi). This is not a scholarly work but rather a fond tribute to these feathered creatures. --George Cohen

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a book that demonstrates the rewards of caring and careful observation of the natural world, Heinrich (Ravens in Winter, etc.), a noted biologist, Guggenheim fellow and National Book Award nominee (for Bumblebee Economics, 1979), explores the question of raven intelligence through observation, experiment and personal experience. Although he has raised many ravens through the years (beginning with a tame pair that shared his apartment at UCLA in the 1960s), Heinrich focuses much of his attention on four nestlings he adopted from the Maine woods near his home. As he describes tending to the demanding babies, chopping up roadkill, cleaning up after them and enduring their noisy calls for food, readers will marvel at how much Heinrich knows and at how much joy he derives from acquiring that knowledge. As the birds mature, Heinrich details how these and other ravens feed, nest, mate, play and establish a society with clear hierarchical levels. At its best, his writing is distinguished by infectious enthusiasm, a lighthearted style and often lyrical descriptions of the natural world. His powers of observation are impressive and his descriptionsÄof how a raven puffs its feathers in a dominance display, of how a female calls for food from her mate, of the pecking order at a carcassÄare formidably precise. Toward the end of the book, Heinrich addresses the question implied by the title: To what degree can ravens be said to think? His answer: "I suspect that the great gulf or discontinuity that exists between us and all other animals is... ultimately less a matter of consciousness than of culture." Illustrations. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This work details Heinrich's (A Year in the Maine Woods) research into the life of ravens. Listeners will experience awe when he encounters them in the wild and in controlled situations and will enjoy the author's discoveries along with him. Norman Dietz narrates, and it is as if the author is recounting the tales. However, the audiobook is 17 hours in length, and there is much more about how the research was conducted than what was learned. If listeners are interested in hearing about research biology, this will be the perfect title, but those looking to hear about the wonder of ravens will have to be patient. VERDICT This is a solid story for those interested in biological research but perhaps not for the casual listener. ["A fine, entertaining book for general readers, as well as an excellent resource for those seeking meticulously gathered and documented scientific information": LJ 12/99 review of the Cliff Street hc.]-Eric Albright, Tufts Univ. Health Sciences Lib., Boston © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Mind of the Raven Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds Chapter One Becoming a Raven Father The first prerequisite for studying any animal is to get and to stay close. You must be able to observe the fine details of its behavior for long periods of time without the animal seeing or feeling your presence. That's a tall order with wild ravens in northeastern America. In my part of the country, where food is sparsely distributed, ravens may range over a hundred square miles a day, and they fly away at the mere sight of a human. Ravens are shyer and more alert, and have keener vision than any other wild animal I know, making it even more difficult to watch their natural undisturbed behavior. Given these difficulties, I felt I needed to try to obtain young and to be a surrogate parent to them. It was perhaps the only way to learn about many aspects of their intimate social behavior. Obtaining and living with young ravens has its inconveniences, not the least of which is making the hazardous ascents to get them from the nest. The trees that ravens like to nest in are not the ones I like to climb. The last few patches of winter snow were left in the shady places under fir trees. The ice had just melted off Hills Pond, and the first warblers were back. But in Maine at the end of April 1993, still a month before the maples would leaf out, that year's baby ravens would already have a coat of black feathers. I was on my way to two different nests. I would take two young of the clutch of four to six I expected to find in each nest. I would then have to attend to every need of the young birds. It was snowing, and the great pine tree with the first ravens' nest was swaying in the north wind coming across the lake. I wanted to run, but I held myself to a walk, trying to conserve as much energy as possible for the climb ahead. More than once before, I had been frightened when I found myself hanging on to a thick limbless pine trunk as strength ebbed from my arms. The void above the tops of the fir trees seemed to expand as my grip grew less secure. White feces were spattered on the ground below the nest, a sign that the young were already beyond the pinfeather stage. At this nest, which I had visited often in previous years, only the adult male scolded me; the female always left when I came near. At other nests, both members of the pair may scold, both leave, or one or both remain at some distance. After carefully putting on climbing spurs and adjusting my backpack, I put my arms around the tree and started. Go slowly, I kept telling myself, one step at a time. I tried to keep looking up, not down. I got very tired just as the solid limbs were getting closer. Fortunately, having trained over the winter to do chin-ups, I was able to sustain the effort. As I hauled myself up onto the first solid limbs, I felt elated. I had once again escaped the fate of some other ornithologists in similar situations. George Miksch Sutton fell from a cliff while climbing up to a raven nest, but was saved by falling on a ledge before hitting the bottom of the cliff. Fellow raven researcher Thomas Grünkorn once fell eighty feet out of the top of a beech, breaking his back in two places. Miraculously, he lived and did climb again (see Chapter 7). Gustav Kramer, an ornithologist studying wild pigeons, died when rocks came loose as he was climbing up to a cliff nest. I am quite frightened of cliffs, by comparison feeling almost safe with tree limbs to hang onto. The tree was swaying mightily in the gusts, but it had not been blown over in worse gales, and it would not fall or break now. Besides, there was nothing I could do about it. So no worries. Four fully feathered young hunkered down in a very soggy nest. It had rained steadily for the last two days, and the heavy, waterlogged nest was badly tilting because one of the supporting branches was too thin. The four young were very chunky, clumsy, and cute. When I lifted two out to put them into my knapsack, I noticed their huge bare bulging bellies. They didn't struggle or complain, and the climb back down was easy. With four young finally resting in the bottom of the knapsack, I hiked home to put my new charges into their new nest -- a basket packed with dead grass and leaves almost all the way to the top, so that they could defecate out over the edge. I talked to them in low soft tones, and they immediately broke their silence and answered in raspy raven baby talk. They were almost feathered out, and looked at me with bright blue eyes (which would turn gray near fledging and brown by winter). They raised pinfeathery heads and opened their big pink mouths (mouth linings and tongue turn black only after one to three or more years, depending on the birds' social status). They were begging to be fed! Such trust, especially after just being taken from their nest, is unique for a bird already at least a month old. It Is especially surprising given that ravens are innately shy of anything new. As adults, ravens in Maine are among the most shy of all birds. These young had long been exposed only to their parents and siblings, yet they responded to me unabashed. Did they somehow hear something in my voice that put them at ease? Their sounds tugged at my heart, and I sprang to action. We quickly established a rapport and I chopped up whatever meat I could find, usually roadkills, and fed the ravens bite-sized chunks at about hourly intervals, just as raven parents do in the wild. Baby ravens and crows need a pharmacopeia of proteins, minerals, and vitamins. I fed mine minced mice, grubs, eggs, fish, and chopped frogs... Mind of the Raven Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds . Copyright © by Bernd Heinrich. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds by Bernd Heinrich All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Prefacep. xiii
1 Becoming a Raven Fatherp. 1
2 A Field Experimentp. 12
3 Ravens in the Familyp. 31
4 Ringing Necks for Baby Foodp. 49
5 Educationp. 64
6 The Fate of Young Ravensp. 73
7 Settling in a Home Territoryp. 82
8 To Catch and Track a Ravenp. 92
9 Partnerships and Social Websp. 107
10 Pairs as Cooperative Teams and Sharingp. 131
11 Hunting and Foragingp. 137
12 Adoptionp. 146
13 Sensory Discriminationp. 155
14 Individual Recognitionp. 163
15 Dangerous Neighborsp. 180
16 Vocal Communicationp. 191
17 Prestige Among Ravensp. 206
18 Ravens' Fearsp. 216
19 Ravens and Wolves in Yellowstonep. 226
20 From Wolf-Birds to Human-Birdsp. 236
21 Tulugaqp. 245