Review of Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World’s Brightest Bird

turner_crow-smartsstar2 Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World’s Brightest Bird [Scientists in the Field]
by Pamela S. Turner; photos by Andy Comins; with art by Guido De Filippo
Intermediate, Middle School    Houghton    73 pp.
8/16    978-0-544-41619-2    $18.99

Turner’s latest Scientists in the Field entry returns to the fascinating topic she explored in The Dolphins of Shark Bay (rev. 1/14): the behaviors of highly intelligent nonhuman animals that use tools. This time, the focus is on the super-smart New Caledonian crow. Many species of crows across the world exhibit advanced behaviors, but this species of crow is one of the few animals that actually make their own tools. These crows bend sticks into hooks and shape pandanus-plant leaves into barbed probes, the better to gather grubs from crevices in rotting logs. Turner joins scientist Gavin Hunt in New Caledonia to learn about his research on crow problem-solving and the evolution of crow tool-making, and carefully steps readers through the inventive experiments that test and confirm the crows’ ability to think through complex tasks. Turner’s friendly, sometimes joking tone effortlessly moves from amusing accounts of crow antics to sophisticated explanations of crow and human evolution. Comins’s arresting photographs of the sleek black birds in the island landscapes of New Caledonia highlight their personalities and intelligence. In an appended Q&A section, readers can learn more about Turner’s volunteer work with American crows; the back matter also includes extensive resources for further learning and an index.

From the November/December 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Danielle J. Ford
Danielle J. Ford
Danielle J. Ford is a Horn Book reviewer and an associate professor of Science Education at the University of Delaware.

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