“Corvus” by Esther Woolfson

The authors daughter rescued a fledgling rook (called Chicken) sixteen years ago, and as the bird became part of their family, Woolfson’s interest in the corvid family grew, as did their own family, joined by Spike the magpie and Ziki the crow, and surprisingly these rescued birds have formed unique sibling relationships with their human counterparts.

The books is part memoir of the lives of the birds in the Woolfson household, mixed with the evolution, biology, natural history, and intelligence of corvids, along with their reputations in cultural history.

I loved the the scientific look at the birds and was fascinated by their intelligence, but I have to say it was the story of the three characters in the book, particularly Chicken and Spike which touched me the most. I don’t often quote from books, but some of the descriptive writing is beautifully observed, including this:

From the grey attenuated light of this February afternoon, a heron assumes bird shape from a haze of flying shadows, drifts down to stand with ancient, ancestral dignity, his air of grey ecclesiastical solemnity, in the shallows in the fringes of the reeds. We watch him intently in silence for a long time, until at last he takes of with slow, considered grace, flies low to merge languidly back into the faint winter mist from which he emerged.

Fascinating and touching, and a beautiful book to read.


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