Crow can fly. She has not only picked it up in what seems to be no time at all, she is as effortless in her aerobatics as her wild family, leaping from the floor to circle gracefully around me at shoulder height before landing equally gracefully.
I’m stunned with the ease with which she floats around the house. Wild crows learn to fly in treetops with the whole sky to practice their manouvers. They swoop and glide and tumble, and the joy they evince in their mastery of the air has always made me both happy and a little bit jealous.
Crow has not had their advantages. She has lived with me in a tiny cottage with very little airspace since she was a fledgling. To learn to fly from the ground up is very different to learning to fly by launching oneself from the heights in which crows nest; with parents and siblings to show her what can be achieved while encouraging her in her efforts. As always, I am in awe of her talents. She can out manouver the parrots easily which has encouraged them in turn to be a bit more adventurous in their own flight.
When she first came to me, the idea was that she would be cared for with as little human company as possible so that when she was healthy again she could be released to the care of her family. When it became obvious that she was not going to be fit enough to do this for a long time, if at all; I made the decision to bring her into the family as a permanent member of the flock. I did not make this decision lightly, a tame crow is a crow who must give up notions of living a normal life with others of her kind. I did not want this for her but could not see a way to keep such an intelligent being in solitary confinement for an unknown and lengthy period of time.
Now of course, about sixteen months down the line she is well, both healthy and flighted. She is also strongly bonded to a human – me – as I am to her. If I go out shopping or walking and leave her behind, she runs to greet me as soon as I come back through the door. Sometimes she waits on the windowsill to watch for my arrival. I prepare the food she eats, I provide her with safe roosting quarters and entertainment. Her friends are two parrots and a spaniel and if she is cold then she comes to sit by the fireguard. None of the birds are afraid of fire. They appear to think that because I tend to it, feeding and poking it; then it must be safe for them to do so too. I have to keep the fire very closely fenced off and guarded.
These things and others are reasons why Crow could never return to the wild. However, I am pretty sure that she knows that she is a crow, and not a human. Occasionally she calls to the wild crows in the mornings and they call back. This has not been happening so much of late and I don’t know whether this means that she is happy without their chatter, or whether it means that they have given up on her eventual release. Although she seems happy in her life with me, she is still very young, not yet two years old and I find myself wondering is there is any way that I could help her to learn the skills she needs to return to her wild family.
I really don”t know the answer to this. Fortunately she does not seem to trust humans automatically. Apart from myself she is very cautious if other people come into the house; usually running away to hide until they have gone. She is also agoraphobic, the world outside the house seemingly too big and scary for her to cope with. I have been putting her a harness on through the summer and taking her outside into the garden and she really hates it, hiding under the brussels sprouts or parrot cages until I bring her back in again. She has to be carried outside protesting all the time, and when it is time to bring her back in, she runs and latterly flies on her leash back through the front door ahead of me. Once I take remove her harness she is happy again, pottering around, bathing in the dog’s water dish and playing with her various treasures.
There is also the problem of food. She has no idea of how to forage for wild food. I hide treats for her to find in containers which she must open but have no place where I could leave a rabbit killed on the road and spilling it’s guts for her to play with and realise that it’s edible. She knows that when I feed Sam she can hop over and pinch food from his dish with impunity but not how to hunt something for herself. She has no crow friends to show her these things.
As Winter approaches, the second which she has spent with me; I will be racking my brains to see if I can teach her some – any – survival skills and in the good weather I will keep putting her outside in the hope that wild crows will visit and befriend her.
I have no intention of tossing her out to fend for herself, but hope that she can learn enough with me for her to make an informed decision as to whether she would like to try at least to build relationships with other crows outside my human influence leading possibly to her leaving home and starting up her own family.