My friend Emmett shared this knowledge with me earlier this week. When he came across a grounded fledgling he spoke with someone at an animal shelter about it, learned it’s a normal behavior, and took the shelter’s advice to “spread the word.” So, I’ll carry the knowledge onward a little further too. That said, I’m not an expert in matters such as these, so if you see a bird that’s clearly injured (i.e., bleeding, maimed), or in acute distress (i.e., beset by insects, in the mouth of a cat, struggling to get out of a swimming pool) some intervention might be prudent. It seems like this advice might also apply to nesting passerines in general, and not just corvids– robins go through a similar phase, so it seems you can safely let fledglings go about their business. If it’s a nestling though, it might appreciate being set back in the nest, if there’s a nest to set it in. Nestlings are the fleshier, bulby-eyed baby bird that are generally lacking in feathers, and they need a little more time with their parents before they’re ready to head off into the world.
It might seem kind of callous to just let the crow fend for itself, but it seems to be a period where they build skills to navigate the world on their own, and learn how to integrate into crow society, while still receiving a bit of periodic support from their parents. Which sounds a little like college, or a first job out of high school. It’s a bit sink or swim, as the lives of animals so often are, but that’s life in the wild. Even we’re not immune to it with all our fancy civilization– dumb and often preventable accidents kill or injure our adolescents all the time.
Crows especially deal with a little bit of karmic pressure when it comes to baby birds. We think of them as scavengers, and in cities generally see them rummaging through trash cans for pizza crusts, but we forget they can be quite the predators in their own right, and they’ll eat the baby birds of other species when they have the opportunity. They’re not the only culprits of this, of course, even among birds. Heck, even deer have been observed to eat birds when they get a chance. Really humans are one of the few critters to treat baby animals as a cute novelty instead of a quick meal, and even that’s just a behavior we’ve cultivated from living in a society with abundant food that most of us would shed in times of desperation. But, such is nature, “red in tooth and claw.”
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