‘It’s just not a raven’: Possible mistaken identity could give bird a chance at new life
A Saskatoon woman who has been fighting to hold onto an injured bird she nursed back to health may have caught a break after some confusion as to whether the bird is a raven or a crow.
Last month, Evangeline Mackinnon found the bird with a broken wing.
Mackinnon welcomed the bird into her home, named it Mortimer and has been nursing the bird back to health.
“It was either kids were going to find him, or a cat was going to get him. It was inevitable that he wasn’t going to have a very long life,” she said.
Mackinnon initially thought that Mortimer was a raven, but now some American researchers are saying that’s not the case.
‘It’s just not a raven’
Kaeli Swift, a Corvid Scientist at the University of Washington has studied crows for a decade, and had been following Mortimer’s story.
“It was immediately clear to me that it’s not a raven, it’s an American Crow,” said Swift
After seeing pictures and videos of the bird, Swift was convinced that Mortimer is not a raven.
“One of the really distinctive features of ravens is that they have these special throat feathers called ‘hackles’. They’re these really coarse feathers and they use these feathers in a variety of behavioral displays and communication. Crows don’t have them. They’re throat feathers are much more typical bird throat feathers, where they’re really fine and smooth,” said Swift. “So in terms of a really nice clear objective field mark, that’s probably the best one.”
Jennifer Campbell-Smith, a Corvid Scientist with a PhD studying crows at Binghamton University in New York, also believes that Mortimer is a crow.
“It’s 100 per cent a crow not a raven,” said Campbell-Smith.
She also noted Mortimer’s featherless throat and slender build make her confident that he is a crow.
Ravens are a ‘protected’ bird in Saskatchewan
After she found him, Mackinnon took Mortimer to a wildlife veterinarian, who told her the wing was permanently damaged and couldn’t be rehabilitated – so Mortimer would have to be put down.
“Since a raven is a protected bird, they have to be euthanized if they can’t be rehabilitated because it’s illegal to house them even in a sanctuary,” Mackinnon said.
Ravens are protected under Saskatchewan’s Captive Wildlife Regulations – created to keep wild animals in the wild. Because of their protected status, only people with a proper training and a license can work as an animal rehabilitator.
Mackinnon said someone reported her to the Ministry of Environment.
On Wednesday, a conservation and a RCMP officer showed up at her door, saying she had 72 hours to turn in Mortimer to be euthanized or she would be fined $2,000.
“They’re wildlife. They’re unpredictable. You never know what could happen with wildlife. Disease is a big thing with wildlife, and some can be infectious to humans,” Kevin Harrison, a conservation officer, told CTV News.
Harrison said a bird with a broken wing has a slim chance of survival, and a low quality of life, which is why they get euthanized.
Mortimer eats ham, adjusts to life indoors: Mackinnon
Mackinnon told CTV News that if Mortimer is actually a crow she will be able to keep the bird and not face a fine for housing a protected species, an outcome that she believes is best for him.
“He’s got his trees, he’s got his water dish, he’s got his sunlight and he can watch the other birds outside,” Mackinnon said.
“Maybe this isn’t the greatest place for him, but it’s better than under a pine tree in front of an apartment building – freezing to death.”
Mackinnon said Mortimer is adjusting to indoor life. She feeds him minnows, ham and table scraps.