Every year I have a rehab bird that defies all the odds to survive and return from whence it came. This year’s leading candidate is a crow who is (so far) recovering from West Nile Virus. WNV has returned to Northern Virginia. Late summer/early fall is outbreak season. Right on time, I got a four crows within a week all sent to me because they were “undernourished.” I’d offer them food and they’d eat everything that wasn’t nailed down. But they couldn’t stand, then lost their ability to balance, then eat, and finally died. I confirmed existence of WNV from a raptor rehabber colleague whose facility had gotten back blood samples positive for WNV. I got calls about other crows with the same symptoms and had them put down because death from WNV is a slow and horrible process.

We interrupt this post to bring you the following public service announcement: according to the Center for Disease Control, WNV is, by and large, not a big deal for humans. I tried to report the evidence of WNV to the county health officials and was told that 1) WNV is a has-been disease and 2) wear gloves when handling sick birds. Thanks, guys.

And now back to our regularly scheduled post: All in all, a dreary and depressing month except for this one bird. I got him early on. He was downright nasty. Crows rarely bite but when they do it’s 1) because they have a good reason and 2) they let go when they’ve made their point. Not this one. He’d bite for kicks and not let go but twist his beak to up the pain factor. His main purpose in life was to hunker down in one part of the cage and befoul it as much as possible. He couldn’t walk and could barely move. It was as if he wasn’t going to take any crap from anyone, including death. Or especially death.

Slowly his status improved from “not dead yet” to standing to walking to perching. A few days ago I moved him outside after confirming that he is no longer contagious. Although it is October, it is unseasonably warm, so the mosquitoes are still out and about. But it appears the virus has run its course so even if a bug gets in through the 3 layers of screening and bites him and then bites another denizen of my little corvid ecosystem, everything should be alright.


So here’s a not very remarkable photo of an ordinary crow who beat the odds. Next step is to get this guy back to the wild where he can pass on his West Nile Virus-defiant genes to the next generation.

Update: WNV Crow has a roommate. A gorgeous full grown adult who is in the beginning stages of the disease. So far the new arrival also bites and takes no guff from anyone, including his fellow patient. Perhaps that’s a sign of a prognosis for full recovery?