Can I Keep a Pet Crow?

Can I keep a crow as a pet? Crows are often found near people and are known for their clever use of tools and problem-solving. But are these mischievous animals good to keep as pets?

The answer is: not really. Federal law prohibits keeping a crow without very difficult to obtain permits. Breeds that do not migrate to the US may be legally owned, but should only be undertaken by serious aviculturists who can meet their advanced needs.

The legal status makes it pretty clear that you will not be able to take in your local crow friends. Additionally, crows have very advanced needs and are not the best pet for most of us. Alternatives such as volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation clinic, befriending local crows, or join a local organization like a falconry club may allow you to enjoy these creatures without undertaking a huge commitment.

Legality of Owning a Crow

Crows are a protected species under the US Migratory Bird Act of 1918. Only facilities that have the proper federal permits related to education or research may keep crows in captivity.

Even if you find an injured crow, before you could keep it, you would be required to deliver it to a wildlife rehabilitator if one can be found within 1 hour of less of the area the bird was found in. Most of the law pertains to hunting, trapping, and the disruption of habitats. In this case, the crow could also be euthanized, but obviously that would not be recommended! However, if caught with a native corvid, they would be confiscated and euthanized. This subsection of the act applies for the American Corvus ( brachyrhynchos), as well as cowbirds, grackles, and magpies.

There are non-native corvid species that could be legally kept in the US, including pied crows and white-necked ravens. These animals have very special caging, dietary, health, and habitat requirements that would not be achievable for most pet owners. Just purchasing from the breeder itself would set you back thousands.

Crows as Pets

A crow cannot be kept in a cage like other birds. While some birds can use their beaks to climb around the cage a crow will need space to fly and hop around. All caged birds can get bored and an intelligent species such as a crow would become mentally distressed in such an environment. Those who have the permits or own the allowed breeds will construct extensive outdoor environments that allow for room to roam and engage in mentally stimulating activities.

Crows are wild and while they have learned to co-exist in urban spaces, cannot be readily tamed by people. Their curiosity will lead to destructiveness and they are also VERY messy and can also attract parasites. Additionally they are very social animals and are happiest with their flock. Legal breeds are sold in pairs as loneliness can be deadly.

Legal Crows

Those who are dedicated to owning a crow, can legally obtain pied crows and white-necked ravens from a breeder. In addition to their advanced needs, it is important to remember their intelligence has been suggested to rival parrots and gorillas. Owning a crow would be an expensive lifestyle decision and require training or professional experience to meet their needs and safely handle them. They are large, 20 in or bigger, with wingspans 2 feet or larger and will require adequate flight space, so cannot be kept in a bird cage. In most cases, the only option would be an outdoor aviary. They will need constant stimulation by toys and extremely regular contact with people to remain handle-able. They are carnivores and will eat rodents, insects, and carrion as a large part of their natural diet. Again, they are messy and dealing with their droppings would not be for the faint of heart.

Pied Crows

Pied crows are extremely intelligent and have demonstrated advanced tool-making and problem-solving abilities. They are also excellent mimers and can be easily encouraged to mimic words and sounds. Some may even be trained to respond to commands. They can be legally breed and sold to the US as they are from Africa and do not migrate across the United States.

White-Necked Ravens

White-necked ravens are not crows at all! But they have some similarities that have made them desirable to people who would like to care for an intelligent bird. They are also from Africa and legal to obtain in the US.

They live 25-50 years and are similarly famous for their intelligence.

What To Do When You Find An Injured Crow?

If you find an injured crow, there are some things you can do to help even if you cannot keep them as a pet.

First, be careful that they are not simply a fledgling crow that hasn’t left their nest yet. Young crows may have their parents nearby and you should avoid handling them.

Additionally, crows are very social and you would want to be careful that they are not ostracized from their fellow crows.

The best option if you are concerned is to call your local wildlife center who will be able to advise to the individual situation and give you resources to take them in for proper rehabilitation if necessary.

Alternatives to Owning a Crow

Having a pet crow would be a serious undertaking, out of reach for many of us, and in many cases, illegal. However, there are alternatives for those who want to help or be involved with these beautiful creatures, namely:

  • Volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation clinic
  • Befriending local crows
  • Join a local falconry club

Volunteering at a Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic

Volunteering is a great way to help out with local wildlife and even possibly interact with animals safely that we would otherwise not have access to. The best way is to find a local organization that you can provide consistent regular time at, which will allow the organization to depend on your and develop a relationship.

Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinics specialize in the treatment of orphaned, ill, and injured native wildlife. By donating your time and talents, you can ensure that animals, including crows receive treatment and a second chance out in the wild.

The Humane Society provides a listing of wildlife rehabilitator clinics that will help you get started with volunteering in your area.

Befriending Local Crows

Wild crows cannot be ‘tamed’, but they can become your friend!

By following some simple steps, you can become friendly with your local crows and they may call to you or be friendly (from a distance!) when they see you

  1. Offer food when you see them. They are opportunistic eaters, but the kindest thing to do would be to offer crow tasty, diet friendly foods such as fruit or nuts. Unsalted shelled peanuts are fun to watch them open and seem to be a favorite for many.
  2. Follow a schedule. Crows can learn your schedule, so handing out food, such as when you are going for a walk or headed to or from work will help them learn when to expect you.
  3. Keep your distance. Crows are not like pigeons and will be much more shy. Keep at a safe distance and give them time to trust you and you may find they become comfortable accepting your treats.
  4. Keep your interactions positive. Crows have been proven to have a long memory and even gossip to their other crow buddies when someone is mean to them. So do not become frustrated and allow them to slowly warm up to you.

Many people have shared success stories of feeding and getting attention from their local crow population with steps similar to the above. Of course, you may want to keep in mind if a flock of crows following you wherever you go is a lifestyle you are prepared to lead.

Join a Local Falconry Club

If you don’t have the training or expertise for handling an advanced bird or raptor, but would like to learn more, joining a falconry club might be for you. Getting a falconry license is a serious, expert hobby, and not easy, but will allow you to interact and care for advanced birds with the appropriate permits.

The North American Falconers Association has resources to help you find your local club and learn more about what it takes to become a proper falconer.

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