New Caledonian crows demonstrate that they both use and produce tools.
In their second joint venture, author Turner and photographer Comins (The Frog Scientist, 2009) journey to New Caledonia to see these feathered “geniuses” in action. There, Dr. Gavin R. Hunt takes them into the forest for field observations and into aviaries and testing areas where captive crows demonstrate their capabilities with unfamiliar materials. Only five animal species are known to make multiple kinds of tools; only crows and humans make hooked tools. Do crows, like humans, improve tool technology and pass those improvements on to others? Well-reproduced photographs, sketches by researcher/illustrator de Filippo, and a clearly organized, engaging text introduce readers to specific crows like young Little Feather, who’s learning tool use from a parent. Turner and Comins also accompany an islander who’s returning some captives to the wild. There’s description, too, of the crows’ South Pacific island world and research done with this species in labs. The author’s affinity for the clever birds shines through, but she is less respectful to her human host. Readers only learn main character “Gavin’s” last name in the backmatter; his official position at the University of Auckland is never mentioned. This is discourteous and, for readers interested in the scientists as well as the science, a sad omission.
An otherwise fine entry in the long-running Scientists in the Field Series. (Nonfiction. 10-14)