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Ravens in Winter (1989)
by Bernd Heinrich
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A correction that nobody will care about: The author says that "Ravenstone" was an old English word for a place of execution. According to the Oxford English Dictionary no such word appears in English until the 18th century, when it was borrowed from German Rabenstein. (The 18th century may seem like a long time ago, but to a language historian it is just the other day.)
juvinile ravens recruit to food sources to overpower resident pairs & gain popularity by proving resourcefullness to future mates
25th anniversary reissue of a book about solving a riddle of the common raven. The research took over 1000 hours in the course of four winters in Maine. The author was motivated by the possibility of discovering a new biological phenomenon and that it might be fun. The research and access to the scientific thought process was fascinating, the writing, at times, soporific.
Bernd Heinrich, Professor of Zoology at the University of Vermont spent four winters studying the group behavior of ravens.
I found this fascinating. But most of you probably wouldn't. Watching Heinrich spend long weekends in the woods of Maine in below-freezing temps, counting birds and analyzing their calls, is pretty dry. Even when he gets a chance to band (wing mark) some, he doesn't name them, as Fossey and Goodall did their apes. The writing is graceful, the science accessible, but overall it's not a lively account at all.
He's an experienced naturalist, and *very* careful to collect meaningful data without prejudice. He tells us a little about what background reading he's done, which anecdotes from trappers & other folks that he's collected... and then dismisses just about all that information as biased, saying that ravens are presumed intelligent, and so observers have explained the birds' behavior with that assumption in mind. Heinrich doesn't deny that they're probably intelligent, but he focuses on data, on watching the birds as if he knows nothing about them. (Except that they eat scavenged meat and take three years to sexually mature... foreknowledge that is crucial to his experiments.)
So, most of the cute stories are snippets about how 'fun' he finds this project. Personally, I'm glad he was the one who hauled hundreds of pound of bait meat into the woods every weekend, slept in an unheated shack, and woke before dawn to climb a spruce, holding still & quiet during blizzards... I sure wouldn't want to.
He did reveal a tidbit from his library research: 'Ravenstone' is an old English term for a place of execution. And he talks a bit about the ravens in the Tower of London. There are a few sketches, There are no photos.
I am looking forward to reading [b:Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds|254704|Mind of the Raven Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds|Bernd Heinrich|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1173183652s/254704.jpg|246837] and perhaps even the author's books on bumblebees.
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Wikipedia in English (1)
"One of the most interesting discoveries I've seen in animal sociobiology in years."--E.O. Wilson Why do ravens, generally understood to be solitary creatures, share food between each other during winter? On the surface, there didn't appear to be any biological or evolutionary imperative behind the raven's willingness to share. The more Bernd Heinrich observed their habits, the more odd the bird's behavior became. What started as mere curiosity turned into an impassioned research project, and Ravens In Winter, the first research of its kind, explores the fascinating biological puzzle of the raven's rather unconventional social habits. "Bernd Heinrich is no ordinary biologist. He's the sort who combines formidable scientific rigor with a sense of irony and an unslaked, boyish enthusiasm for his subject, and who even at his current professorial age seems to do a lot of tree climbing in the line of research." --David Quammen, The New York Times
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)598.864Natural sciences and mathematics Zoology Birds Insessores, perchers Shrikes, Starlings, Corvids, Birds of Paradise Corvids
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