Even the blackest of them all, the crow,
Renders good service as your man-at-arms,
Crushing the beetle in his coat of mail,
And crying havoc on the slug and snail.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,
Tales of a Wayside Inn–The Poet’s Tale–Birds of Killingworth
I like crows. They caw and chatter in the trees around my house, and I look a little anxiously at disheveled ones because they might have West Nile Virus, which I hear has devasted crow populations in areas of the northeast US. So when Greg saw an injured one near the street just before dinner last night, we swung into action. The bird was dragging a wing, one flight feather was sticking out an an odd angle, and it was also hopping one foot, as if a leg was broken. As we walked back up to the street together, a mob of young teenagers came past:
“Hey look, a crow!” “Let’s throw rocks at it.” “I’ve got a BB gun.” etc. Would wiser heads have prevailed if we weren’t there? Who knows, but we herded the crow into the shelter of a rhododendron bush and I guarded it while Greg went to phone the PAWS Wildlife Center. He came back shortly with the word from the experts: No food, no water, bring it in before 8pm. We collected a sturdy cat carrier, gloves, and towel, and I herded it in Greg’s direction and he threw a towel over it, then picked it up. Once picked up it didn’t resist at all, and it was gently deposited in the carrier which was then covered with the towel.
We’re fortunate that PAWS is only about 4 miles away. When we got there, another lady was wandering around the parking lot with a carrier, frustrated at the inadequate signage. She had an injured crow, too, unable to fly because of paint on its tail. The main section was closed, but we jointly figured out that the Wildife Center, which is set back in a clump of woods, was where we needed to be. The staff took the birds away and returned the carriers, and we ended up first at the desk to give addresses, etc. When the other lady heard our address, she exclaimed, “I came from West Seattle!”, so for her it had been about a 25 mile drive, fighting traffic all the way.
Her bird had apparently been attacked by a cat while it was stuck on the ground — the staffer said that when birds are wounded in the torso they get subcutaneous edema — they swell up with fluid in their airsacks and need to be deflated — well, I guess it would actually be drained, but the idea of deflating a bird has a certain charm. He agreed that our bird likely had a broken wing and a broken leg, probably the result of a car strike. After it had settled in for a bit he’d give it thorough exam. It’s apparently not uncommon for them to be feeding on roadkill or trash on the road and not get out of the way quite fast enough. The prognosis depends entirely on exactly where the breaks are: if they are at or to too near a joint, the bird will have to be euthanized, as it won’t heal well enough for it to able to live in the wild. If the breaks are in the middle of bones, then splints and time will do the job, and it’ll be off on its own with stories to tell. Since we live fairly close to the center, as the crow flies, it might even be able to find its way back to its territory.
I called PAWS today, and they’ll send me a card with the rest of the story — the person I talked to said the bird was still there, but didn’t know any details.