The Northwestern Crow and a Semi-Tame Bird Named Canuck

Updated on October 10, 2019
AliciaC profile image

Linda Crampton is a writer and teacher with an honors degree in biology. She loves to study nature and write about living things.

A northwestern crow in Alaska
A northwestern crow in Alaska | Source

Clever and Interesting Birds

Northwestern crows are clever and often confident birds. They are a common sight where I live. I see them almost every day. I enjoy watching the birds (and talking to them). They are very opportunistic animals and can be a nuisance when they investigate garbage and spread it around. Fortunately, this problem has disappeared in my neighbourhood now that our garbage in deposited in bins for the curbside pickup.

The scientific name of the northwestern crow is Corvus caurinus. In the Greater Vancouver area, Canuck is a famous example of the species. He's a wild crow that regularly seeks out humans (especially one person) and interacts with them. Sadly, there are concerns about his whereabouts at the moment, as I describe later in this article.

The northwestern crow is found in the same area as the American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) in some parts of its distribution. It's often hard to tell the birds apart. Some people think that the northwestern crow should be classified as a subspecies of the American one.

Daily Life

Northwestern crows live in the Pacific Northwest region of North America and are generally seen at or not far from the ocean. The birds have an omnivorous diet. They eat what they can get. Their diet includes animals (invertebrates and small vertebrates), eggs, young birds stolen from the nest, carrion, fruit, and seeds. They like to explore picnic areas as well as other places where people might dispose of garbage containing food remains. The crows are known to hide food when it's present in excess. Researchers have discovered that they almost always remember where they've cached the food.

The birds walk and hop. They are capable fliers that sometimes perform complex manoeuvres in the air. They enter the ocean and tide pools to catch animals that live in shallow water. The crows probe the sand and turn over seaweed, rocks, and debris as they forage. They crack the shell of food such as mussels and clams by flying to a height and then dropping the animal onto a rock or other hard surface.

In winter, the crows roost in a group of trees located quite near my home. The roost and my home are located near an ocean inlet. It's always impressive to see numerous birds streaming through the darkening sky towards their sleeping area. Thousands of birds roost in the trees. During the rest of the year, the birds associate in mated pairs. Each pair spends the night in a tree outside the winter roost.

Reproduction

Some sources say that northwestern crows mate for life. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says that the birds have "long-term pair bonds". The nest is usually built in a tree, but on some sea islands it may be created on the ground. Both the male and the female create the nest.

Three to six eggs are laid. They are pale green or blue-green with brown and grey blotches. Only the female incubates the eggs, but the youngsters are fed by both parents. Incubation lasts for 17 to 20 days. The male brings food to the female during incubation.

The hatchlings are helpless at birth and stay in the nest for up to 35 days. A young crow from the previous clutch may help the parents care for the hatchlings. The young birds beg for food from a parent even after they've left the nest.

Some crows nest in the trees at the bottom of my road. They are very excitable and protective at this time, vocalizing and flying close to passersby in a threatening manner. I once felt the wings of a bird touch me as it flew over my head, but the crows have never hurt me. The BC SPCA recommends that people change their route or open an umbrella when they walk through a nesting area in spring.

Northwestern Crows have long-term pair bonds, but they sometimes mate with crows that are not their partners.

— Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Canuck the Crow

Canuck the crow is (or was) a semi-tame bird that is famous for his antics. I don't like to use the past tense to describe him, but he was last seen on August 30th of this year. His disappearance is strange. His mate has been calling for him without any response. It's thought that Canuck has either been captured and is being kept in captivity or he has died. I'll continue to talk about him in the present tense in the hope that he is safe and will reappear.

The word "canuck" is a nickname for a Canadian. Canuck's mate is called Cassiar after a major road in East Vancouver. Canuck and Cassiar live in this area when not at the winter roost. Though Canuck approaches various people, he has bonded with a man named Shawn Bergman. His confidence around Shawn can be seen in the video below. The bird is the star of several social media accounts, where his adventures can be followed.

Canuck's Adventures

Canuck's unusual fondness for humans appears to have been established when he was very young. Shortly after he was born, he fell out of the nest. A young boy found him and hand-reared him. When Canuck was able to fly, the boy released him. This happened around the middle of 2015. Shawn Bergman was the boy's neighbour. The boy was reportedly the son of Shawn's landlord.

Though Canuck accepted his new-found freedom, he remained interested in humans and their activities. He seemed to feel that he belonged to the world of crows and the world of humans.

Today Canuck associates with humans as well as crows. He goes inside a local McDonald's restaurant to see what he can scrounge. He also visits a local gym. At least once, he has ridden on SkyTrain, Vancouver's light rapid transit system. He also enters people's vehicles through open windows.

In a famous incident, Canuck stole a knife from a crime scene. A man burnt his car in a McDonald's parking lot and threatened police with a knife. When the crime scene was being investigated after the incident, the crow flew in and stole the knife. He eventually dropped it and police were able to rescue the knife.

The Soccer Field Incident

Canuck's association with humans hasn't been completely happy. In 2017, he was attending a children's soccer game, as he often did. He had ridden with the sports director as he marked the field. During the game, someone hit Canuck on the head with a flagpole in what witnesses say was an unprovoked attack.

Understandably, the children were very upset about the incident. Canuck was unconscious at first but eventually flew away as the sports director held him. The SPCA was contacted. They in turn contacted Shawn Bergman. After a frantic search, Shawn found the still-dazed bird on the balcony of a nearby home. He took the crow to the Night Owl Bird Hospital, where he recovered.

A bird's brain has a different structure and organization from a mammalian one. This doesn't necessarily mean that birds are unintelligent. Some types—including crows—are clever animals.

A Job at the PNE

I believe that I once saw Canuck. At that time, he wasn't banded on each leg as he is today. Canuck visits the annual fair at the PNE, which is held at Hastings Park in East Vancouver. A couple of years ago when I was at the fair, I noticed a very confident crow on the counter of a food stall beside the staff. I also noticed that the staff weren't shooing him away but were tolerating his presence, which suggested that they knew him.

Canuck explores the fair and investigates what people are doing. One woman who works in an office there says that if she leaves her window open, Canuck flies in and steals the keys off her keyboard. In 2017, the PNE decided to pay the crow a salary of $12.27 an hour because of his "job-shadowing" activity. The salary was donated to the Night Owl Bird Hospital.

Canuck has a band on each leg. The orange band makes him recognizable to people. The silver band comes from the Federal Bird Banding Office and means that he's officially recognized by the government.

The Letter Carrier Incident

Canuck has had an interesting relationship with a letter carrier named Tyler Macleod. The two met in 2018. At first, the crow was aggressive towards Tyler, dive-bombing him and pecking and scratching him. The behaviour may have been related to Canuck's new relationship with a mate. He might have had a nest nearby. The mail delivery to three homes had to be stopped due to problems caused by the crow.

Tyler came up with the idea of bribing Canuck to behave well by giving him peanuts. The ploy worked and the two became good buddies. In fact, the crow now gets into the mail van as a passenger and "helps" Tyler deliver the mail.

A poster about Canuck on a tree near my home
A poster about Canuck on a tree near my home | Source

The Disappearance

I don't live in Vancouver, but I do live in an area adjoining the eastern part of the city. My location and the fact that Canuck still hasn't been discovered is probably why posters about him have recently appeared in my neighbourhood. The $10,000 award has been provided by donors who want to remain anonymous.

Canuck once disappeared for three days and then returned, but the latest incident appears to be much more serious. As the situation continues, people who were involved with the crow are becoming very tense and suspicions about other people's activities are growing. The idea of kidnapping (or crow-napping) has been raised. Canuck may have been killed in an accident or by a predator, however.

A northwestern crow in Vancouver
A northwestern crow in Vancouver | Source

Beauty and Danger in Nature

About two months ago, I was walking in the area where the poster above has been placed. Suddenly a bird of prey of some kind (probably a hawk) swooped in front of me as it chased a crow into a bushy but semi-open area beside a creek. I hope the crow escaped further along the creek, but I don't know how likely this was. The event was so rapid and unexpected that it took my breath away. The crow wouldn't have been Canuck, but it reminded me of the dangers that nature presents for animals that are eaten by predators.

I hope Canuck didn't face a similar threat to the one described above. It would be wonderful if he's safe and if he's eventually found. At the moment, rumours about his disappearance exist but no facts. If his fate is discovered—whether it's happy or sad— I'll update this article.

References

  • Northwestern crow information from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  • Facts about the bird from Audubon
  • Corvus caurinus facts from the City of Richmond, British Columbia
  • The Misadventures of Canuck from Audubon
  • Canuck injured at a soccer game from the Vancouver Sun
  • Canuck is paid for his PNE job from Global News
  • The letter carrier and the crow from CTV News
  • Disappearance of Canuck the Crow from the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Linda Crampton

    Comments

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      • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Crampton 

        4 days ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Thank you very much for the visit, Ruby. I think that Canuck is an amazing bird!

      • always exploring profile image

        Ruby Jean Richert 

        5 days ago from Southern Illinois

        This is a very interesting article. I read Chris Mills story about the crow bringing the locket back and mentioned that I was an avid bird feeder, and hoped that a crow would come to feed. He told me about your hub. Canuck is an amazing crow, and so smart. I had no idea a bird was that intelligent. Thank you for sharing. The videos were so cute, he was playful. Amazing!

      • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Crampton 

        7 days ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Hi, Chris. Thanks for the visit. There has been one report of a sad end to the story, but there have been some suspicions that the report is a hoax. Unfortunately, if Canuck is dead and his body has disappeared, we may never know what happened to him. I hope he's alive and well.

      • cam8510 profile image

        Chris Mills 

        7 days ago from Kettering, Ohio through January, 2020

        Crows are amazing birds. I have written a little about them as well and was happy to read about Cannuck. I'll be watching to see if there is any news.

      • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Crampton 

        2 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Hi, Denise. Canuck is an intriguing bird. We still don't know his fate. Rumours exist, but there's no proof about what has happened to him at the moment.

        Blessing to you as well.

      • PAINTDRIPS profile image

        Denise McGill 

        2 weeks ago from Fresno CA

        This is a fascinating story. I've never heard of the bird Canuck before so I am intrigued. We have lots of crows around here in the summer and I'm mostly annoyed by them and the constant noise they make in the tree next to my home. I suddenly have a new perspective of them.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Crampton 

        3 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Hi, DreamerMeg. Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately, it does seem unlikely that Canuck will be found now. I hope he does reappear.

      • DreamerMeg profile image

        DreamerMeg 

        3 weeks ago from Northern Ireland

        Crows and their relatives are very intelligent and can solve quite difficult problems. Very interesting article. I hope Canuck is found safe but as you say, this is increasingly unlikely as time goes on.

      • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Crampton 

        4 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Hi, Nithya. I hope Canuck returns, too. Thanks for the comment.

      • Vellur profile image

        Nithya Venkat 

        4 weeks ago from Dubai

        Great article about the Northwestern crow. I enjoyed reading about this clever bird’s antics. I hope Canuck is fine and returns soon. Thank you for sharing this interesting and informative article.

      • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Crampton 

        4 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Thanks for the visit and the amusing comparison between corvids and humans, Mel. The raven that you describe sounds like an interesting bird.

      • Mel Carriere profile image

        Mel Carriere 

        4 weeks ago from San Diego California

        I hope they find Canuck. Although they are thieves and scoundrels, corvids are among my favorite birds. I think the reason humans and the corvidae have such a connection is because both are omnivorous marauders.

        At Yellowstone there was a Raven who would pose for pictures with people. He seemed to understand the basics of photography, and would hop in closer for a better shot. Sometimes he would get paid with food.

        Lovely article.

      • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Crampton 

        4 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Thanks, Bill. I hope Canuck is okay, too. I'd love to hear some good news.

      • bdegiulio profile image

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 weeks ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Linda. Very interesting facts about the Northwestern Crow. They are indeed very smart birds. I hope they locate Canuck and he is okay.

      • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Crampton 

        4 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Thank you very much, Cynthia. I love your description of the caw. It's an interesting sound.

      • techygran profile image

        Cynthia 

        4 weeks ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

        Hi Linda

        Another great article! I learn a lot from you about wildlife.

        I love this recounting of the life of Canuck. We have quite a few crows in our neighbourhood. I will have to do a little more conscientious observation. They are fascinating and the caw of a crow is one of those sounds that reaches deep down into the child-primitive part of my being and truly grounds me.

      • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Crampton 

        5 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Hi, Linda. Thanks for the visit. Crows are known to be intelligent birds, but Canuck does seem to be an especially clever representative of his species. He's adapted very well to both crow and human society.

      • lindacee profile image

        Linda Chechar 

        5 weeks ago from Arizona

        I hope Canuck is still alive and has been able to locate his mate. That's quite a wild story about this smart Northwestern crow!

      • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Crampton 

        5 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Hi, Heidi. Yes, hawks are impressive animals as well. It's sad that some creatures must eat others in order to survive, but it's part of nature. Canuck is certainly famous here. Like you, I hope he's safe.

      • heidithorne profile image

        Heidi Thorne 

        5 weeks ago from Chicago Area

        What an urban legend Canuck is! I do hope he's safe. We have a few hawks in our area and they are powerful, swooping down mainly for the likes of squirrels. But they are incredible creatures. Thanks for sharing Canuck's story!

      • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Crampton 

        5 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Hi, Dora. Watching Canuck's behaviour can certainly be entertaining! He did earn a good salary at the fair, though the "job" only lasted for two weeks. The earnings may have been calculated so that they came to roughly a thousand dollars, which was the donation given to the bird hospital.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        5 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Canuck earns as much as any, and more than many. Seems if we took the time to watch the crow, we be provided with some much-needed entertainment. Thanks for your interesting information on these birds.

      • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Crampton 

        5 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        I appreciate your comment, Mary. The food chain is a sad aspect of nature.

      • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Crampton 

        5 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Thank you, Pamela. I think that birds of any kind are interesting to watch. Their songs can be beautiful.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

        They are indeed clever. I watch them often while walking with Maggie, a great source of entertainment for this old man. :)

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 

        5 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

        What a beautiful account of the northwestern crows. They are my least favourites because they eat the chipmunks but after reading this, I understand them better. They, too, are lovable.

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

        I enjoyed this article and I sure hope Cunuck turns up. I don't have those types of birds here, but I love hearing the birds outside. I sure cen't imagine hitting one of the head! I enjoyed the videos as well. This is a very good, well-written article.

      • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Crampton 

        5 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Thank you very much, Flourish. He is loved. Some people are going to be very upset if he doesn't return or if it's shown that he's met a sad fate. I'm glad the boy who cared for him as a youngster released him into the wild, though. He deserved freedom.

      • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Crampton 

        5 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Hi, John. I hope Canuck is safe, too, but he's been gone for over a month. I hope his story has a happy ending, but I'm not sure that it will. Thank you for the comment.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        5 weeks ago from USA

        The video and your write up were absolutely delightful and now I worry too about this little guy as well. I hope he is safe. It is so plain to see how loved he is.

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        5 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

        A very interesting article, Linda. Canuck’s disappearance is concerning especially with his mate calling for him to no avail. I do hope he is found safe and well however. I enjoyed reading this.

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