On the morning of Friday, July 8, John Russell made a winged friend.
Russell said the baby crow was sitting underneath a tree in his yard in St. Albert's Forest Lawn neighbourhood.
After a few hours, it looked as though the crow had been abandoned. Russell lined a shoe box with a blanket, scooped up the crow, and two soon became fast friends.
“He was super friendly,” said Russell, who became the crow's caretaker for a short time. “He got along well with my dog and my neighbour’s grandkids.”
Ragnar, as he affectionately dubbed the fledgling bird, often sat on Russell’s shoulder as they went for morning walks together past Richard S. Fowler school.
At home, if Ragnar was bored, he would hop into Russell’s lap to get attention.
Russell said it was surprising to see his dog, Achilles, and the baby crow get along so well.
“He’s [Achilles is] a Rottweiler/Belgian shepherd cross, so he intimidates a lot of things,” said Russell.
It seems Ragnar was as fearless as his Viking namesake.
Russell fed him a varied diet of seeds, watermelon, and even eggs. “He wasn’t a huge fan of scrambled eggs, but over-easy eggs seemed to make him happy.”
In addition to the Michelin-star cooking Ragnar ate, he also enjoyed taking care of Russell’s driveway ant population.
“He would stand between the two rival colonies and just pick at them,” Russell said with a laugh. “He looked like a little monster standing there eating the ants.”
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and a week after meeting, Russell took Ragnar to WildNorth Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Edmonton.
“There are lots of fledglings around this time of year,” said WildNorth executive director Dale Gienow. “Fledglings, which is the stage in a crow’s life where they get most of their feathers and get to about 80 per cent of their size, often make their way down to the ground for about a week before they learn to fly.”
Gienow said this often leads people to mistakenly taking care of fledgling birds that were just waiting for their mothers.
Fledgling crows such as Ragnar might have a little fuzz left on their heads from infancy, especially blue eyes, and soft, lighter flesh surrounding their mouths.
“People are very compassionate to baby birds, but it's best to exercise caution when it comes to wild animals,” said Gienow. “Birds that can imprint can suffer from irreparable damage if they imprint on a human, and too long being taken care of can impact their return to the wild.”
That isn’t to say it's always bad to care for a bird, but he said people should plan to take them to a rehabilitation centre as soon as possible.
“Wild animals are best kept just that – wild,” said Gienow.
Knowing that it was what was best for Ragnar, Russell was still heartbroken to part with his friend.
“I miss him already,” he said.
If you see an injured or abandoned animal, please call the WildNorth Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre’s hotline at 780-914-4118.