As a rehabber, I see people doing well-meaning activities. Birdnapping happens when people want to help a baby bird. And they are right that the bird is in danger when it is on the ground. It is not intuitive that the bird actually has a better chance of survival in a world of predators than it does in a cage being fed by humans. 

But I recently had a patient who was a victim of human cruelty pure and simple. Someone clipped the wings of a beautiful juvenile crow for who knows what reason.

Perhaps they thought it would stay in their yard as a “pet.” Maybe they wanted to get rid of it and so clipped its feathers so it would be killed by another animal. Who knows. The result is that they killed the bird.

I took the bird because I was told on the phone it was an adult. Adults molt at this time of year, so this seemed like a mystery but not much of a problem: keep the bird until its new feathers grow, let it go, easy-peasy. But the bird turned out to be a juvenile. His initial feathers were still coming in. He was not going to lose the mutilated feathers for another year. Under the terms of my rehab permit, I can only keep a bird for six months before it has to be released, transferred to an ed permit, or euthanized. Although it’s possible to get an extension, the chances of a crow surviving in the wild having missed a year of socialization  were pretty low.

There is a technique called imping which involves gluing feathers from one bird into the feather shafts of another. This works well if a few primary feathers get damaged or lost but imping an entire wing is not easy. Nevertheless, my colleague Liz, who runs Secret Garden Birds and Bees, said she would give it a try. And now that West Nile Virus season is upon us, getting donor feathers is not a problem.

Before we could implement Operation Imp, the bird died.

You can’t get into the wildlife rehabilitation business if you can’t deal with putting animals down when it’s required because they are too sick to recover or their injuries won’t heal. But it’s a far cry from accepting that reality and knowing that an animal died because some idiot deliberately maimed it.