Esther Woolfson has been fascinated by corvids, the bird group that includes crows, rooks, magpies and ravens, since her daughter rescued a fledgling rook sixteen years ago. That rook – named Chicken – has lived with the family ever since. Other birds have also taken their place in the household – a magpie, starling, parrot and the inhabitants of an outdoor dovehouse. But above all, it has been the corvids (a talking magpie named Spike, Chicken the rook, and, recently, a baby crow named Ziki) that she has formed the closest attachments with, amazed by their intelligence, personality and capacity for affection.
Living with birds has allowed Woolfson to learn aspects of bird behaviour which would otherwise have been impossible to know – the way they happily become part of the structure of a family, how they communicate, their astonishing empathy. We hear about Chicken's fears and foibles: her hatred of computers and other machines and her love of sitting on Woolfson's knee in the evening and having her neck scratched; the birds' elaborate bathing rituals, springtime broodiness, and tendency to cache food in the most unlikely places.
Woolfson tells the darker story of the way corvids have always been objects of superstition and persecution; and with the lightest of touches, she weaves in the science of bird intelligence, evolution, song and flight throughout. Her account of her experiences is funny, touching and beautifully written, and gives fascinating insights into the closeness human beings can achieve with wild creatures.