It is nesting season and corvid fledglings are about to leave their nests to start the big adventure of life. Corvid fledglings are fully feathered and healthy looking birds, who can perch, stand and hop by themselves. They are already able to fly short distances. Fledglings of many bird species leave the nest at this stage, and for good reasons. If they would remain in the nest, predators could have an easy meal, killing the whole brood at once. Leaving the nest and hiding scattered in trees, in the undergrowth or in bushes, even when not fully developed and not being able to fly properly, is the best way to increase survival chances. It gives fledglings the time and required exercise to improve their flying skills, which often takes less than a week of daily practice, after they have left the nest.
Two common questions we are being asked every year are how and when to release carrion crows, rooks and jackdaws. The answers to these questions consists of two main parts. The first part is based on generally accepted non species specific rehabilitation guidelines, and the second part is referring to species specific considerations.
One of topics commonly discussed in corvid fora and question frequently asked is what to feed crows, usually referring to birds in the wild, but also to birds cared for in captivity or during rehabilitation. One of the most frequent answers given is that the name carrion crow is a giveaway, and that crows would eat, who would have guessed, almost exclusively any type of carrion.
However, when looking through findings of scientific studies about feeding habits of corvids, confirmed and enriched by individual experiences of corvid rescues and rehabbers, it becomes evident that this answer is not exactly true and would in fact suggest an unhealthy and unbalanced diet.
Yesterday, we closed our release aviary doors, bringing this years’ carrion crow and rook release saison to an end. At the end of September we opened the aviary doors for 17 crows and rooks to be soft released. Out of these 17 release candidates, 15 birds, consisting of 11 carrion crows and four rooks, have been successfully soft released. Two birds decided to stay and will get another release chance offered next year. These two birds will join a group of birds in our communal aviary already being earmarked for release in autumn 2018. Out of these 15 released birds, we released three birds, who stayed with us since 2015, three birds, who came to us in 2016, and nine birds, who have been admitted in 2017.
Soft release is a release technique, which involves continuing care for animals at the release site, particularly back-up feeding, and requires a greater commitment of time and effort than a hard release does. Soft release is particularly important for hand reared animals, especially of species which need to learn about their surroundings and need to learn survival skills such as foraging and hunting. It is also appropriate for older immature or adult birds, who have been maintained in captivity for prolonged periods, or are being released at a site distant from their original location, as the original location might not be suitable.
Some of the released birds have joined straightaway our local mixed rook and jackdaw as well as non-territory holding carrion crow flock, which they already got to know very well during their stay with us. Both flocks are frequent visitors to our premises, a fortunate situation, which allows direct interaction and communication between wild birds, patients and residents. Over the past weeks some of the released birds decided to come back into the safety of the release aviary to roost, whilst others came back only to get some extra snacks. Many of them stayed in the near vicinity for longer periods of time. After becoming more and more confident, which is a learning process lasting anything between several days and many weeks, we could observe these birds, when they followed the local flocks flying further and further away from the release site, to participate in daytime activities and to eventually join the night roost.
Although the aviary doors are closed now, backup feeding and shelter will still be provided throughout autumn and winter. Most of the released birds are now staying away completely, or at least for longer periods of time. Some of them are still coming back to visit their old comrades or to enjoy some food, which we will continue to provide.
When checking out the picture gallery, you will find a short summary underneath every picture telling you a little bit about the individual stories of these fascinating birds.
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