The author of numerous bestselling and award-winning books, Bernd Heinrich is a professor of biology at the University of Vermont. He divides his time between Vermont and the forests of western Maine.
YA-Heinrich's adventures with ravens are consistently interesting and illuminating, whether he's crouching for hours in cold rain to observe them, hauling animal carcasses into the woods to attract them, or visiting in the homes of their human companions. In 29 readable and richly illustrated chapters, he shares his own experiences with the birds as well as many anecdotes collected by observers from around the globe. He explores "the possibility of conscious choice" in these obviously intelligent but often baffling birds, and believes they owe much of their complexity to the fact that they have evolved in close association with dangerous carnivores-wolves and men. Looking at the common fear that ravens damage crops, Heinrich asserts they have been unjustly accused and persecuted by farmers, and he studies firsthand the relationship of ravens with Eskimo hunters. Sometimes the research just leads him from one mystery to another, but wherever his questions take him, the journey is always fascinating as the many layers of raven psychology are revealed. Perhaps best known on this continent for its "trickster" talents, the raven has been associated in Europe with divination, death, and the Norse god Odin. Heinrich's perspective, that of the scientist, is just as compelling for modern readers and does full justice to this bird's mythical reputation. A fine, entertaining book for general readers, as well as an excellent resource for those seeking meticulously gathered and documented scientific information.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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)
"A compelling exploration of the nature of consciousness with an unremittingly delicious jaunt in the woods.... a grand storyteller."--Baltimore Sun "An amazing book...a scientist and naturalist of the first rank...a nature writer of uncommon talent."--Edward O. Wilson "Bernd Heinrich is one of the finest living examples of that strange hybrid: the science writer."--Los Angeles Times Book Review "Heinrich has a rare ability to embed dense scientific explications within graceful, lightfooted nature writing."--David Quammen, New York Times Book Review "Heinrich brings alive the romance of field research...A splendid book."--Library Journal (starred review)