Management of Interspecies Interactions in Captivity

Introduction

This blog post is aimed to provide some useful information regarding the potential need for the management of interspecies interactions between different corvid species in captivity. We are frequently being asked, mostly by rehabbers and rescue centres, if and how certain corvid species can be kept together in an aviary environment. This question often becomes of interest due to a reoccurring problem in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation – the lack of available aviary space.

To shed some light onto this topic, one has to consider two different main scenarios. If and how different corvid species can and should be kept together depends on the set goal to be achieved, as there are different considerations to be made. The two main scenarios are rescue, rehabilitation and release opposed to long-term care in a sanctuary like environment. We will discuss and examen both scenarios in this blogpost.

Magpie Luca
Magpie Luca
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Large-billed Crow Project in South Korea

Large-billed crow

We would like to support Joey Rositano’s ‘Large-billed Crow Project’ in South Korea by sharing the link to the Kickstarter he is currently running for the digital version of his book ‘Scattering’.

‘Scattering’ is a limited edition photography book about crow feeding rituals on Jeju Island in South Korea. As part of their shamanic faith residents of Jeju Island leave portions of food for scavenging animals, especially crows. Over five years Joey Rositano documented the special relationship between people and large-billed crows in the village of Darakut in South Korea.

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Corvids – Killers or Scavengers?

Introduction

Are corvids cold blooded killers or merely opportunistic scavengers? This is the question we are trying to answer in this blog post. Mainstream media and advertising businesses often have a tendency to present an idyllic and idealised version of farming practices, showcasing for example animals living in picturesque environments. This imagery is employed to evoke positive emotions and create a connection with consumers. It is nothing else than a marketing strategy aimed at promoting the products derived from the use of non-human animals, such as meat or wool, by associating them with positive and wholesome images. Humans have a natural inclination to connect with and appreciate the beauty of animals. The sight of a playful and adorable lamb triggers positive emotions, such as joy and warmth, which does evoke empathy and a sense of compassion.

Spring lamb - Photo credits: FreeImages.com/takatuka
Photo credits: FreeImages.com/takatuka

Bearing this in mind, then it is not surprising that the sight of corvids scavenging on such an innocent being will without a doubt be repulsive for most people, who will immediately sympathise with the victim, and not with the scavenger. Unfortunately, media representations of such wildlife interactions with domesticated non-human animals are commonly very much one-sided, despite the well known fact that it is always essential to consider all nuances and complexities of such interactions.

Jackdaw Alyona
Jackdaw Alyona

Media portrayals often focus on dramatic or attention-grabbing stories, which can lead to an exaggerated or sensationalised narrative. While isolated instances of corvid predation on lambs occur, it is essential to keep in mind that wildlife predation is just one among many factors influencing lamb mortality. It is crucial to take scientific research in account, as we will do, when discussing these matters.

We will show the links between mainstream media, their owners and agricultural businesses, and we will demonstrate historical, cultural and psychological background information to explain why a picture of corvids as being coldblooded killers is being painted. We will look into the human psyche, but also at the reality of agricultural businesses.

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Identification of Juvenile Rooks and Carrion Crows

Carrion crow Amor
Rook Brambles
Rook Brambles

It is usually not difficult to differentiate between adult rooks (Corvus frugilegus) and carrion crows (Corvus corone). Both species may look similar at the first glance, because both have black feathers that can also look glossy. However, the long pale and pointy beak, with bare skin around its base, is the most striking and characteristic feature of rooks. It is also worth knowing that rooks nest collectively in tall trees, often close to farms or villages, which are known as rookeries. In contrast, carrion crows are fairly solitary and are usually found alone or in pairs, although they may form occasional non-breeding flocks. Unlike rooks, carrion crows do nest solitary, maintaining a large breeding territory centred around the nest.

Carrion crow Chili
Carrion Crow Chili

Additional help and information about how to identify adult corvids including rooks and carrion crows can be found on the British Trust for Ornithology website (BTO).

British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) – Identifying Corvids – Crow, Chough, Jackdaw, Rook and Raven

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Eyes – Windows to the Soul

Carrion crow Harold

It has been said that the eyes are windows to the soul. Research has shown that the apertures of our eyes offer a glimpse into the mind. No doubt that this applies to human and non-human animals. The pupil response to cognitive and emotional events occurs on an even smaller scale than the light reflex, but with the right tools this response is measurable.

When we give a human or non-human being moral consideration, then this simply means that we take into account how they will be affected by our actions, omissions, attitudes and decisions. Sentient individuals, regardless of their species, have morally relevant interests in being alive and in not being harmed, and this does not vary according to the fact whether a species is rare or common.

When I look into the eyes of an animal, I do not see an animal.
I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul.

Anthony Douglas Williams
Carrion crow Harold
Carrion Crow Harold