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Birds and the Importance of Gifts

Even crows and ravens seem to understand the importance of giving gifts. John Marzluff and Tony Angell, in their book, Gifts of the Crow, detail the intelligence of birds which results in them behaving like humans. The authors relate many accounts of people routinely receiving gifts from crows, thought to be in response to kind actions such as providing food for the birds. Crows are known to give gifts such as coins, bits of colored glass, flowers, a blue plastic Cap’n Crunch figurine, shiny rocks, keys, and even false teeth.

This gift giving could be accidental, intentional, or perhaps a form of reciprocity. The authors write:

Reciprocity may not be a practice exclusive to humans. The ability to quickly associate behavior with reward that is so prevalent in (crows) may underlie their innovative gifting behavior. Leaving gifts suggests that crows understand the benefit of reciprocating past acts that have benefited them and also that they anticipate future reward. In their case … it is a planned activity; the crow has to plan to bring the gift and plan to leave the gift.

Possible Preaching Angle:

Giving and receiving gifts are well known as one way we show love for others. However, there are those who avoid these activities to the detriment of their relationships.


John Marzluff and Tony Angell, Gifts of the Crow: how perception, emotion, and thought allow smart birds to behave like humans, (Atria Books,2013), pp. 110-114

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