For the birds: Crows—Nestlings usually leave home before they can fly

Friday, June 6, 2014

"Carl" the baby crow calls for his parents

By Christine Southwick
Photos by Peggy Bartleson

Do you have a crow on the ground, making a loud noise? Unless you see blood, or a hanging wing, it is probably not injured. It is most likely a nestling crow which has left its nest before it can fly. Most crows leave the nest early for safety reasons. Nests, with their “feed ME” sounds, are lures for predators — raccoons, hawks, owls, eagles. The sooner nestlings are strong enough to leave their nests and hide, the more likely that they will survive.

Feed me!!!!
Carl begging his parent for food
And do not fear; the parents are watching, dive-bombing cats and other dangers, and feeding their youngsters on a regular basis. Sometimes a couple of youngsters will hang together, but more often they will go their separate ways, thus increasing their probability of survival. The parents know where each is, and are feeding them appropriately.

Don’t let the nestlings’ size fool you. When they leave the nest, they are 80% or more of their adult weight. Their legs are already adult size, and their wing feathers are nearly full grown. But they are still babies. They will often tip side to side as they walk, making them look a trifle drunken. Part of the problem is that they don’t have their tail feathers yet to act as their rudders.

Carl being fed by his parent

The pictures are of a neighborhood nestling. I first saw it five afternoons ago. The first neighbor didn’t know what to do, but had put out some tuna fish. Baby crows have to have the food stuffed down their throats—so putting out food won’t help nestlings.

The next morning that baby had moved across the street, near a house with a known hunter cat. The parents dive-bombed that cat until it started lying elsewhere. Now the little crow is staying at a house where the owner watches daily, but doesn’t crowd it. The parents feel comfortable in the yard, and Carl the crow (that’s what the neighbor calls it), struts around more steadily every day, and hides in the flowers at night.

Still no tail feathers. Carl is still grounded.

It still doesn’t have tail feathers yet, but will soon.

Remember, most birds found walking about on the ground are not abandoned, and don’t need human “help”. Keep your pet away from the area that the bird is staying, and wait about a week. It will fly away then.

More info about baby crows and what/what not to do, here

Find more For the Birds under the Features section on the main webpage


Anonymous,  June 6, 2014 at 9:16 AM  

Super interesting. Thank you for the post Christine and Peggy!

Unknown June 11, 2014 at 10:44 PM  

Thanks for this important information. Makes total sense too.

Anonymous,  June 11, 2014 at 11:27 PM  

I saw my cat getting ready to attack a fledgeling in my backyard - so I took it to the bird rescue. They asked me to take it back and place it where I found it. I did so, and it stayed in my yard for about four days. I kept my cat indoors during this time, it was touch and go with the neighborhood cats (which I had no control of). Hard to watch the fledgling unable to fly - and knowing that danger is lurking. I believe this one finally made it to flight. I will say the crow 'family' kept an eye out and made plenty of noise when I went near it, but I don't think the noise would scare off a cat.

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