Emergency Care for Baby Crows

Posted by in Aves, Conservation

It is that time of year again, and the baby crows keep coming! In most cases, crows should be left to fend for themselves, particularily if they are fledgelings.  Before you attempt to rescue a baby bird, consider the following:

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  • Is it badly injured or in danger?
  • Are there other crows nearby?
  • Is it a fledgeling or a nestling?

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Fledgeling or Nestling?

Like many species, juvenile corvids will typically leave the nest before they are able to fly. They will spend several days on the ground building up their flight capabilities and learning essential survival skills from their families.

This is a completely normal and very important part of their life cycle. It is not uncommon to find young crows on the ground in suburban, urban and industrial areas.

Unless these birds are clearly injured, they should be left alone for their parents to care for. Crows that are in immediate danger, can be placed up off the ground on a low branch or structure, but should not be moved more than 100 feet from where they were found.

Nestlings, on the other hand, are quite apparently babies, with pink or greyish skin, overlarge heads and fine chickdown. Nestlings may fall from the nest by their own terrible misfortune, or be kicked out by a sibling. In some cases, a rival bird may also be the culprit.



Fledgeling






Nestling



Fledgling crows can be found learning to fly during the months of May, June and July. People are frequently concerned that the crow that they have seen on the ground is injured rather than simply a youngster learning to fly.

One easy way to tell if a crow is a youngster is to look at the color of the bird’s eyes. Young crows have blue/grey eyes. Another easy way to tell if a crow is a fledgling is to look to see if other crows are hanging out nearby.

If there are other crows nearby they are likely the parents. Size of the bird is NOT a good indicator of age since fledgling crows are frequently close to the size of their parents when they leave the nest.


Wouldn’t it be safer to raise the crow in captivity and let him go once he is able to fly?

No! Although the urban landscape may seem like a hazardous place for a crow to learn to fly, many crows do manage to survive. In fact urban crow populations are increasing.

Raising a crow in captivity and then releasing it to the wild reduces its chance for survival. Crows spend between one and two years with their parents, a much longer period than most other bird species.

This extended period is essential for young crows to lean complex life skills, a wide array of vocalizations and to integrate into a complex social structure. Captive raised crows miss out on all of these things and have very little chance for survival.

Sometimes protective behavior by adult crows can be confused for aggression against the youngster, but rest assured that a loud raucous group of adult crows is a sign that a youngster is in good hands.

If you have determined the bird is a Fledgeling, get as close as you can to check for injury, but take care not to touch it. Beware that  the protective nature of corvids  may inspire them to attack you, so make your assessment quickly and move on.


Safety First

Fledgelings:

It is best to avoid touching the bird if possible to avoid spreading disease (contrary to popular belief a crow will not reject its young just because you touch it). However, if the bird is in an unnatural place, such as  a parking lot or the middle of the street, it needs your help. Pick it up as gently as possible by slowly cupping your hands together beneath its feet. If the bird is quite large, slide one hand under its feet and place the other gently on its back right at the base of the neck.  Move it to a safe spot under a bush or at the base of a tree. Take care not to move it too far away from where you found it, so the parents don’t freak out when they return.  If the bird is within reach of a dog or cat, keep the animal inside or away from the bird until it has fluttered off with its family.

Nestlings:

Caring for a nestling at home is very difficult, and babies have very little chance of surviving. Nestlings are too young to be on the ground. If you find a nestling, try to locate the nest and put it back. If you can’t reach the nest, attach some kind of “nest” to the side of a tree. You can use a small box lined with any soft and dry material. The parents may come to this nest to continue caring for the nestling.


Emergency Care

If you have found an injured fledgeling, or orphaned nestling and it is too late or impossible to go through with the above advice, use the following guide to take action.

Injured fledglings: broken leg, broken wing, ruptured air sac (will appear as a “bubble” of skin), or wounds from cat/dog attacks:

Call your local Audubon or Wildlife Rehab center. Your other option is to find a vet who specializes in bird care. See our links at the bottom of the post.

Do Not: Wrap the wing or leg yourself, or move the bird unless absolutely necessary.


Fledglings with a twisted leg:

A severely twisted and useless leg is a common crow birth defect. The parents will reject babies with this defect and push them out of the nest. Babies with this defect do not typically gape for food, and may have some type of internal defects. An adult bird can survive with one leg, but a baby with a crippled leg will not be able to walk or fly, and will spend its life sitting as if paralyzed. Sadly,a baby with this defect should be humanely euthanized.

Call your local Audubon or Wildlife Rehab center. Your other option is to find a vet who specializes in bird care.
Do Not: Euthanize the bird yourself.


Sick, dehydrated, or fly-covered fledglings:

If the fledgling is unable to sit (toppling over on its side) or is attracting flies, it likely just needs some TLC.

Call your local Audubon or Wildlife Rehab center. Your other option is to find a vet who specializes in bird care.

Place the bird into a box with clean, dry bedding and sit it under a 40W lamp (take care that the bulb is not too close to the bird’s head)

If the baby is gaping for food: Mix a spoonful of sugar and a pinch of salt in a litre of lukewarm water. Use the wadded up end of a clean cloth or paper towel to soak up the liquid and gently let it drip onto the birds tongue.  Do not squeeze or pour the liquid in or you risk drowning the bird.

Once the bird seems to be feeling better, you can offer a shallow dish of water and try feeding it some soft food:

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  • Cat or dog food soaked in water until soft and mushy
  • Ground turkey or chicken softened with a little warm water
  • All natural baby food (meat varieties are best)
  • Finely mashed tuna (low sodium please!)

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Depending on the news from the vet or rehabilitator,  it can probably be returned to the same general location where it was found. The parents will likely resume care once the baby has been revived.

Do not: Attempt to hand-raise the bird as a pet. Not only is this illegal if you are unlicensed, but it is not right for the bird.


Why You Shouldn’t Keep It

According to Cornell Ornithologist Kevin McGowan, “One common problem with hand raised crows is that if they are taken early enough they easily become imprinted on humans. This might seem like a good thing while you are raising it, but it is definitely a BAD thing. Crow babies make wonderful pets and are very appealing. Being very social they want to interact with you constantly (like a puppy, way more than a kitten). They are very curious and get into lots of funny situations. They are very personable, have very distinct personalities, and might even learn to say a few words (often only to one specific person). The downside of this behavior is that it makes them unafraid of people and very vulnerable in the wild.

Over the course of my studies on crows I have spoken to a large number of people who have raised them as pets. All speak lovingly of the experience, but consistently, the stories end in one of two ways: 1) The crows start leaving for a day or so at a time (usually in the fall), and then are never seen again, or 2) some neighbor or someone nearby kills them when they are too friendly/aggressive. Usually this involves the crow trying to land on the head of an unsuspecting person or their children, which results in the crow being hit and killed with a stick or broom. I was astounded at the number of people whose stories ended this way. What I have almost never heard is the one I would expect the most, knowing normal crow behavior: that the crows left and kept coming back intermittently for a year or two. My wife had pet raccoons that did that, and I had a friend who raised a bobcat that did that, but I have spoken to only one or two people who have ever had a hand raised crow do that. I suspect that they don’t get the chance because they got killed soon after they went out on their own.”

Crows, Ravens, Jackdaws, Rooks, and other corvids need professional care and large aviaries to maintain their health and happiness. If you are interested in becoming a wildlife rehabilitator in your area and you have the yard/room for a substantial aviary, contact your local rehab center for volunteer position and inquire about their licensing program. Online programs are available through several univeristies world-wide or by clicking here (US-Intl) or here (Canada)

Resources:

Help, I Found a Baby Bird! (PDF)

How to Find a Rehabilitator

Corvid Aid (UK)

Kevin McGowan’s Homepage

Sharon Yildiz

Originally posted on 6/27/2010

31 Comments

  1. I work in a school and found a young fully feather crow that could not fly in the school yard. I tried to leave him, but no parent arrived to feed him even though he was calling. Kids can be cruel with young birds, so I took him home with me. He is in a big cage and is eating well and drinking regularly. Once a day I put a wet meat mixture down his throat, which he seems to like and eats a fair amount of it, but I also have a large flat bowl of grains, fruit and nuts which he eats constantly. I am getting meal worms for him today to try. He seems happy and playful and makes his crow sound a couple of times a day. I am happy to keep him, but would like to know if it is better for him to be taken to a bird sanctuary. Hope you can help.

  2. Crow
    Best food: chick meat, soaked in water cat brickets, or wet cat food, if older (feathers fully grown) +fruit and wallnuts or similar (dont forget meet)

    I have a pet crow, it was not able to get back to nature, it is pidgeon toed (feet goes inwards, comon mehanic deformation like splayed legs) and it is very hard to take care of, he still teaches how to eat by himself.

    Cat food make his poop sticky so its not very good choice for crows, specally if you need to teach yung bird to move his legs eaven slightly better, for now he use his beak if he step on his feet witch is offten.

    Small birds like him you need to bath very offten but still make him warm, remember small birds dont have reall feathers to keep them warm and safe.

  3. Could someone tell me when. To release a fledgling crow he is still relying on being fed a bit how old before they eat on their ownroslyn

  4. I have a fledgling crow I have had him 6 weeks ,he could not walk at first but is now fine on the leg , but I,m not sure he isn’t brain damaged. he has these spells of slow motion as if he is out of it ,then followed by spinning, head twisting , and doing flips , these episodes last about 5 mins and he has them about twice a day , any ideas please

    • Hi Cath,
      We have a crow that has “brain damage” type symptoms and now assume it’s Western Nile Virus (WNV) related. The bird is about 6 weeks old I guess.
      What I’m trying to determine is whether survivors manage to “re-learn” their motor-neural abilities.
      In this vane, did your bird recover?

      I am hoping our juvenile will eventually regain his ability to stand and eat for himself and ultimately fly away.

      Doing the best we can

  5. If the baby has one fly on it, is that a sign there is something wrong? I really need an answer quickl

  6. I had to take a crow into “custody”, it was impossible to let it there, lots of cars and wild dogs around (welcome to the urban areas of Romania) . After 1 week she learned how to eat by her own different mixes of food I prepare and also she started to fly on small distances in my balcony on the branches I made there for here. My intention is to release it in a different area, close to a forest, where there are a lot of crows, as soon as I am certain she can fly good. My question is now related to her feathers. When I found it 1 week ago she had no feathers on her head, also some place on the body without feathers. Her head is now even more bolder, and there is no sign of new feathers growing. Is this a disease, is it normal to change feathers at this age? I gave her a mix of minerals and vitamins for the birds in the water and considering her behavior, she looks ok, good apetite, active, aware of the environment. Any advice is welcomed. Pls don t tell me that I should t took it, in that area she would have died for sure and I had no possibility to get to a possible nest to put it back.

    • i found a crow in bad shape. He’s leg and wig it’s bad shape I’m trying to help him .Hes might be a juvenile I just don’t know what to feed him try warms from the pet store and fruits dog food both can and dried soak with water but he only seems to like the Crust from the sandwiche bread please someone help me

  7. We have a pet crow, we had him for 2 years now. Very friendly, his name is Carl, and he does say hi, he loves be outside and fly in the trees and stuff, but always comes in around supper for the day. He’s the best, cats & dogs love him too.

  8. I found a baby crow fell about 30 feet out of the nest and just some soft leaves so I put him in my hat and took him home… it was his only chance we have coyotes. A couple days later I finally got the formula right from the babies parrot food Exact hand feeding formula and mixed baby turkey food. The French didn’t work well for me so I got it condiment dispenser and that made feeding easier. A couple days later he opened his eyes couple and I have not been able to leave the house for longer than 1 1/2 hours max. I took him in a box to the party on Saturday. …so I could still feed him. I have found all this information out by Googling it. Now…I’m trying researchin how to introduce him back to the parents who are still close by ….maybe 1000 yards. A couple days after he fell another high wind blew the nest down I found it was empty. I put it back up into the crook of a big oak tree about 6′ up. I’m thinking of mounting a platform about 10 feet up so I can put him back up there. I’m just not sure if the parents will see him. They have moved about 500 ‘ further into the eculyp trees. I hope I’m correct to wait until 35 days to put him back. in the meantime I’m going to try to introduce insects. Any other advice would be appreciated. ..909-762-7000

  9. So why do they make bad pets? They sound very similar to parrots. If you are okay with birds being kept as pets or at least domestic you have no moral ground to be against keeping a crow. If you intention is to keep it and not release imprinting is not an issue. Falconers take birds from the wild and can possess them under certain conditions. I see nothing wrong with somebody wanting to keep a crow as a pet. Have at it.

    • I believe that the point is they make great pets for us but it’s a miserable existence for the animal, more so for intelligent animals. Given how poor people are at assessing the mental well-being of their human companions I would hesitate to suggest that they would be any good at assessing non-human mental health. What we might interpret as happy, healthy behaviour probably isn’t but rather a response to say, food, or a break from what amounts to solitary confinement if they have been left alone for any length of time. I would have to say by many measures it would be kinder to not have a pet even if that means the animal being dead. This is in part due to the number of people there are, one person having a pet is a minor thing, a billion people with pets is an environmental burden which probably engenders more wild animals than the number of pets that are supported.

      Please, never buy a parrot, it’s just not fair on the poor things. There is no way it would be as happy with a human as it would be in a natural habits with a flock of it’s own species.

      Funnily enough I’m here because I have been hoping to rescue a nestling corvid but I have to admit I am no longer certain that I could do much more than postpone its death a little in my own interest and at some small cost to the environment, without any prospect of it enjoying the experience. This is a shame (for me) as I think corvids are an excellent family, really intelligent (my thing) and wandering about in the field across the road. I just want to interact with them more! However without being able to assess how it is for them it becomes a somewhat selfish desire…

      One can make similar arguments for having children too but that would be for another day.

      • Ha Ha, I know what you mean about children, I have thought that way myself for years now but never really met anyone who agreed. Still, all these years on and now I have 3 kids and still not sure what I think about it all. A man’s opinion means nothing these days anyway, women have all the power and what they want they get. I get a noisy life without peace as a reward for doing what I’m told. But at least I have my bird friends around me when I go outside to get away.

    • I barly found two baby crows and i dont know whatto do my mom said leave them but i refuse

  10. Went to water my plants in the backyard about 20 minutes ago when I noticed a fledgling, upon noticing so did my German Shepard and snapped it up for about 3-4 seconds before I made him let go. Grabbed a paper towel and lowered him over the fence into our golf course. I didn’t get to see if it was too injured but it was moving about and the parents still seemed in the tree above. Hope the little guy is okay, I love birds and I just hate when I see them die, abandoned or screaming in pain (little guy was screaming while my dog snatched him up). :c

  11. Just picked up a fledgling, it was sat in the middle of the road and looked like it had been hit by a car, there were larger birds (don’t know whether crows or ravens) pulling at it’s wings, I don’t know whether these were it’s parents trying to get it out of the road or whether they were attacking it but it was in no shape to stay were it was so I brought it home, it’s currently sitting in a bow on a towel with a shallow dish of water in there. It looks like it has injuries to it’s wings and underside but it’s not bleeding and nothing seems broken, any suggestions?

    • The same thing. Seems like the underside of the wing is rotting. Lost his brother last night to it and hope to save the Lil guys life. Any luck on finding the cause or cure to the wing injury?

  12. i need help on how to care for a young crow that will not be taken back by its parents. it for some reason does not have eyes and from what i have heard has not been fed yesterday or today also a few feathers from its wing seem to have been removed 🙁

  13. We have found a young bird that seems to be fine on inspection, aside from feces caked on its feathers. There are no other crows around, and we would leave it, but it seems to struggle moving on the ground, and lies leaning on its front with its rear raised. When it does move, it’s a bizarre struggle that does not use its legs. Should we leave it?

  14. Thanks so much for the information. It helped me to save a fledgling Just now

  15. My cat brought 2 nestling crows yesterday. Both are injured (one near eye and another one has air bubble on tummy near leg). I have no idea where the nest is. And we don’t have bird centers. How can I help them? The one with air bubble looks very bad 🙁 It doesn’t want to eat at all. Another one is eating fine. I was feeding with softened cat food, because didn’t have anything to offer yesterday. Today going to get baby bird food. Any advises are appreciated.

    • Hi
      I found a similar looking fledging raven. His one eye was puffed up like a balloon and had this white goey discharge. Before the cats in the vicinity could see him. I brought him home. Initially I wiped off the discharge with cotton soaked in coconut oil. Later on, used wet and dry cotton. After that applied natural aloe vera gel. Discharge has stopped.
      Initially he wouldn’t eat so I started off with milk . I put some on a tiny toy spoon and kept it under the pointed end of his beak. 2-3 he slipped through the gap . One week later he is much healthier. Making lots kf noise esplly when he is hungry. Currently I am feeding him with puppy pedigree gravy chunks, lil banana some rice. He hasn’t learnt to fly but he sometimes sits at the end of the cage. He has started flapping his wings though. Today I even tried raw strands of chicken. A friend suggested feeding cerelac baby food . Hope this helps.

  16. So why do they make bad pets? They sound very similar to parrots. If you are okay with birds being kept as pets or at least domestic you have no moral ground to be against keeping a crow. If you intention is to keep it and not release imprinting is not an issue. Falconers take birds from the wild and can possess them under certain conditions. I see nothing wrong with somebody wanting to keep a crow as a pet. Have at it.

  17. Thank you for your article. We have a fledgling in the yard and I was not sure what to do. For a person who is not very knowledgeable of birds, this was extremely helpful! Thanks!

  18. Thank you. Great article! I am a retired….(never fully) Rehabber under Fed, permit thru Keeper of the Wild in SC. this is excellent information. thank you. <3

  19. Thank you so much for posting this! We came home and found a fledgling sitting our a chair on our deck and I wasn’t sure of the situation. It looked as if he had been sitting there all day. I went out on the deck and out of no where came the two parents. I came back in and found your article. So, we patiently waited and within 4 hours, the fledgling had hopped/flown from the chair to the deck rail into the lilac tree and finally into the apricot tree. It was one of the best things I’ve ever witnessed!

    Thanks for the information!

  20. A crow nestling fell out of fireplace i tried to put him back in there but couldnt i have tried feeding him but he wont open his mouth wat do i do

    • you need to either:
      1.Get a syringe, fill it with milk, force its mouth open, and slowly empty the syringe.
      (!My sister told me this!)2. Get a spoon of milk and put it in its nose…..(Slowly)

  21. I jus picked up a injured bird.. not sure if rook or crow… its been hit by a car….the back of its beak is ripped and bleeding…what is best to feed it with

  22. This was very helpful. I actually just raised a fledgling outside in our back yard and free, near his family. He was very friendly with our family as well. Recently he has been gone for more and more hours a day, and I’ve seen him with his family who were always close by. I realize through your blog that maybe we did it right and will never see him again now that he is back with his family. BUT we really miss him, he has been with us for 6 weeks. I can see how attached we can get. Thanks for the blog.

    • We have two baby crows right now and were not sure what to do with them. there parents dont feed them yesterday we saw them but today there gone. Did you feed the crow you had?

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