Tony Angell, ’62, ’66, sticks up for nature, even birdbrains

In their new book, nature artist Tony Angell and UW professor of wildlife science John Marzluff disabuse the notion that the family of birds known as corvids—crows, jays, magpies—possess mere “bird brains.”

In Gifts of the Crow, Marzluff and Angell (B.A., Speech Communications, 1962, M.A., 1966) postulate that these winged creatures often behave like people. Crows recognize faces, devise and operate tools, cling to grudges, grieve and mate for life. For fun, the feathered critters windsurf and sled.

Puget Sound residents know the artist’s bronze, marble and slate sculptures of orcas, river otters, eagles, falcons, migrating loons and swans. The public touches them every day at Pacific Northwest zoos, libraries, civic centers, hospitals, museums and aquariums. The public hungers for “accurate information about nature,” says Angell, an environmental educator, naturalist, storyteller and author of a dozen books. UW Press published Owls (1974), Ravens, Crows, Magpies, and Jays (1978), Marine Birds and Mammals of Puget Sound (1982) and Puget Sound Through an Artist’s Eye (2009).

He carves stone, sketches and writes at his Lake Forest Park home and Lopez Island studio. Self-taught, he never graced an art class.

Tall and sturdy, Angell, 72, says he feels a good deal younger. And, as they have for decades, corvids—among other essential living things—still leave him awestruck.