The Reverend Henry Ward Beecher once remarked that "If Men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows." Crows are a somewhat ubiquitous presence in our city, but this highly social and intelligent bird often goes more or less unappreciated. It was the acrobatic dives and raucous squawking of a crow that alerted me to the presence of one of our red-tail fledglings last weekend---the crow was probably trying to protect a nearby nest by attempting to drive the red-tail out of the area.
Crows form complex family units. Unlike many of our local bird species where the adults and young only spent a matter of weeks together after the young fledge, juvenile crows often stay with their family units for more than a year and help to raise the next years brood.
This time of year it is not uncommon to find young crows on the ground learning to fly. They often become quite active and leave the nest before they are fully flighted. The family unit stays close by and brings food and provides protection. In fact people often first become aware of a young crow on the ground because of the raucous squawking of multiple family members overhead.
These young crows are often mistaken to be either injured or orphaned. Sometimes people even mistake the squawking and diving of close by family members as aggressive rather than protective behavior. Our wildlife rehabilitation center receives dozens of crows that are "rescued" by well-meaning but misguided people during the spring and summer. It is an easy mistake to make, but one which separates young crows from the essential learning, support and protection their family will provide for them during the first year of life.
The crow pictured below was found hopping around on Burnside Avenue this weekend and delivered to my house. After an exam, we determined that he was in just a healthy young crow, probably only a day or so from flying. My wife and kids drove him back to where he was found and sure enough within minutes located another youngster on a nearby rooftop and a bunch of crows (the term for a group of crows by the way is a "murder") flying and raising hell overhead. As soon as my wife held up the youngster, an adult cawed and came swooping down. They quickly left the bird to the care of his family.
Fledgling crows, just like red-tailed hawks are close to full size and fully feathered when they fledge. The eyes of young crows often appear blue in color. If you see a young crow on the ground take a few minutes to watch the complex interactions of the family unit, but please leave them be---the parents and extended family are more than capable of taking care of them.
Juvenile crow before just before it was reunited with its family on Burnside this weekend