On June 6, the Wildlife Center admitted an unusual patient – an adult Common Raven – from Richmond, Virginia. Since 2000, the Center has admitted fewer than 10 ravens as patients.
The raven (believed to be a female) was part of a nesting pair in Henrico County. Biologists from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries were aware of the nest, which was situated near an office building. Nesting ravens in that part of the state are far less common; ravens in Virginia are typically found closer to the mountains.
For approximately three months, a woman observed the female raven on the ground near a parking lot in Richmond. For the first two months, the raven was able to fly short distances; the bird was able to fly from the ground to the roof of a car. By the third month, the bird could not fly at all. The raven’s mate was observed bringing scraps of food to the grounded bird, but eventually stopped. The woman then began feeding the raven – who seemingly could not forage for food for herself – an appropriate diet of fruit, hard-boiled eggs, and cat food.
During the three month period, the woman tried to get help for the bird through local organizations and permitted wildlife rehabilitators. No rescue occurred due to a series of miscommunications and misidentifications of the bird’s species and life-stage. Several people initially told the woman that the raven was actually an American Crow, based on the description of the bird and geographic location. The woman was not convinced that the behavior was normal for a crow and, furthermore, she was confident in her bird identification skills.
She reached out to VDGIF and was put in touch with state biologist. Upon seeing the bird, the biologist identified it as an adult Common Raven and recognized that the bird was in poor condition.
The biologist caught the raven in the parking lot and brought the bird to a local veterinarian for initial care and assessment. The raven was then transferred to the Wildlife Center for further treatment and was admitted as patient #14-1100 on June 6.
Raven #14-1100 presented with large portions of missing feathers on her body, tattered flight feathers, and dry, scabbed skin on her left thigh and under the left wing. The veterinary staff tested the bird’s skin to determine whether the feather loss was due to a fungal or bacterial infection or an infestation of parasites. The bird was slightly thin and dehydrated, though very feisty and reactive to handlers.
Tests showed that mites were present on the raven, which would cause the bird’s extreme feather loss. The veterinary staff treated the bird with an anti-parasitic and administered an anti-inflammatory to treat the skin condition. The raven was housed in the Center’s isolation room until the mite infestation resolved.
During her first weeks at the hospital, the raven was bright and feisty with a strong appetite. Ravens are intelligent birds that can become easily bored in captivity. While in the isolation area, the raven became increasingly destructive of the items in and near her cage – tearing down the drapes and sheets that covered her cage was a daily activity. For the bird’s mental well-being, the veterinary staff felt it would be best to move the raven to a larger space as soon as possible. The scabs on her body were healing well and she was gaining weight. Following her second anti-parasitic injection on June 15, the raven was moved to a larger outdoor enclosure [C-pen 3]. The rehabilitation staff added a low “jungle gym” of perches for the bird to climb on, since she was still unable to fly.
On June 22, the raven received her third and final anti-parasitic injection to treat the mite infestation. Her feathers were growing in; however, the process of growing feathers can be lengthy.
According to Birds of North America, a complete molt of an adult Common Raven can last from May-December. Each of the primary feathers can take approximately four weeks to completely grow in, and the feathers molt in succession, with four to six days between the start of each feather molting. Raven #14-1100 will remain at the Center until all of her feathers – both flight and body feathers – have grown in.
Besides being necessary for flight, feathers serve as part of a bird’s thermoregulation (control of their body temperature) and protection from the elements. Feathers are also part of many species’ courtship displays and can assist in communication to other birds. For these reasons, a bird cannot be released into the wild with insufficient feather coverage.
Once her feathers grow in, raven #14-1100 will need to time to build muscle strength in her chest and wings before she can be considered for release. Until then, the staff will monitor the raven’s appetite, attitude, and feather growth.
This raven’s stay at the hospital could last many months. The average cost of caring for a patient at the Center is $14 a day, which means the cost of care for this bird could be thousands of dollars. Your generous donation will help us provide the necessary care for this special patient.