Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mind of a Raven - Bernd Heinrich

This was a really interesting read for me, although I'll admit it took forever for me to finish.  Maybe it's because I kept falling asleep on the subway, but it really was interesting! It was almost as if someone had written a novel about the background to their scientific journal articles, but instead of all the sciency stuff I usually skim over because I don't understand it, it reads like a regular book.

I hadn't before separated ravens from crows (horrible, I know), but I hadn't known that there really was a difference!  Being up North I had probably seen a bunch of ravens, although hadn't been a bird person yet I never really took notice.  In Chatham, crows are EVERYWHERE.  It's pretty much watching Alfred Hitchcock's "The Bird's"  in real life.  Walking down by the Thames River and needing to watch where you step so you don't get pooped, I never liked them that much.  After reading this book, I became to really like ravens and their unique character.

Bernd took in Ravens to study them at close proximity, raising many from when they were young and conducting a variety of studies from behavioural to raven culture.

My favourite snippit in the book was when he learnt that Ravens would often mimic just about anything:
"...in early June in Olympic National Park, he distinctly hears, 'Three, Two, One, Bcccchhhhhh', the sequence repeated at least three times.  He wrote to me saying ' It sounded so realistic that i looked around for the speaker and even called 'Who's there?'.  It turned out that speaker was a raven, perched on a nearby snag.  Park rangers had conducted avalanch control the previous week and apparently the raven had heard and been impressed."
Photo from: christophermartinphotography.com
There were so many little projects in this book that were conducted with Ravens that I found to be so, so interesting.  The ones that most intrigued me were ones that dealt with the birds social behaviour.  Ravens have an interesting way of placing dominance among themselves in a group, which allows them to be loud, reproduce, big, while others who are less dominate are quiet, heads are often low, and although they may have a partner, may not reproduce.  Once this dominate bird is removed, the other may suddenly have the same attributes the dominate one had.  If that makes sense!

The second is their ability to remember individuals.  This is both creepy and amazing!  Ravens treat individual ravens differently, almost seeming like they form an opinion on them.  Ravens not only see individuals within their own species but also within humans, carnivores, and just about anything else that moves.  So next time you go shooing one away...just remember..it knows who you are! Haha.

Anyone who's got some time on their hands, loves to learn about birds, and has an interest in reading about a guys research...this is definitely a book for you!