Springtime Orphans at California Wildlife Center

The Canyon ChronicleBy The Canyon Chronicle      May 14, 2021

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Springtime Orphans at California Wildlife Center
PHOTO COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA WILDLIFE CENTER Two orphaned baby crows singing for their supper.
As of May 6, the California Wildlife Center (CWC) had 352 patients in its care, and 62 new patients, orphaned baby crows among them. The “Patients of the Week” this time were crows, two babies and one youngster. This serendipitously continues our crow coverage from the April 16 issue that featured crows in its cover photo and in Kathie Gibboney’s column, My Corner of the Canyon. Since 2015, the California Wildlife Center (CWC) received 2,099 American Crows and 538 Common Ravens. They are one of the most frequent species that we get every year and are always a staff favorite. The majority of the birds we receive are orphaned. Skeptics of these often-maligned birds are won over by their behaviors as orphans and by their intelligence. Crows and Ravens can be distinguished from one another in a few ways. Ravens are significantly larger than Crows and have more curved beaks than Crows. When seen in the sky from below, the Crow’s tail is shaped like a fan and the Raven’s is shaped more like a diamond with a point at the end. Crows tend to be seen in large groups, called Murders. Ravens are more apt to be seen in pairs. They are both members of the family Corvidae, as are Rooks and Magpies. This family is the smartest of all birds studied and have been shown to use tools, to have self-awareness, to recognize human faces, and to speak several other animal languages. Crows will even bring gifts to humans, the only animal species shown to do so. Young crows will play identifiable games such as “follow the leader.” At CWC, our volunteers and interns are tasked with creating enrichment for all of our animals, though Crows and Ravens receive special attention due to their intelligence. We must constantly challenge them with new ways to hide food or puzzles to decipher so that their young minds can grow and be prepared for some of the challenges of the outside world.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA WILDLIFE CENTER A Young crow whose eyes are still blue but will change as it matures.
Quite a few of the adult Crows and R avens we receive each year have been infected with West Nile disease. We work with the Los Angeles Department of Veterinary Health to track these deaths as this mosquito-borne disease can also affect humans. Another prevalent disease among adult Crows and Ravens is Avian Pox. Spread by mosquitoes or through the air from other infected birds, Avian Pox is visible on wild birds with lesions on their eyes, mouths, and legs. Due to the tight conditions at CWC and the numbers of patients we help each year and its virulence and highly infectious nature, we do not treat birds with Avian Pox as they would require full isolation for healing.

Crows and Ravens are omnivores—they enjoy berries, insects, other birds, carrion, grains, eggs and human trash. Our orphaned Crows (recognizable as babies by their still-blue eyes as seen in the photo) are hand-fed a mixture of fruits, vegetables, and dog food. Eventually other sources of protein are added as they mature.

Ravens and Crows figure largely in literature and in Indigenous traditions around the world. In the Middle Ages in Europe, they were considered harbingers of death, as they also were considered in Inuit and some Muslim traditions. In ancient Egypt, they were seen as symbols of faithful love, due to their strong family units. In India, Crows are deities of wisdom. Some Native American cultures believe that the Crows were the makers of the world and are symbols of good fortune. In recent popular science fiction both the Game of Thrones and Six of Crows feature the birds.

Due to their flexibility and ability to thrive among humans, Crows and Ravens are one of the few bird species that are increasing in numbers.

California Wildlife Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit that provides medical and rehabilitative care to more than 4,300 sick, injured, and orphaned native California animals every year.

For more information: cawildlife.org. For animal emergencies, please call (310) 458-9453 and select option 1 for marine mammals and option 2 for land animals and birds.
The Canyon Chronicle

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