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The Northwestern Crow and a Semi-Tame Bird Named Canuck

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

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 placed in bins with lids 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.

Daily Life of a Northwestern Crow

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 in my area 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 of the Bird

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 2019. His disappearance is strange. His mate called for him after his disappearance and received no 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 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 (Pacific National Exhibition), which is held in 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. 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.

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 bird.

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

Canuck's Disappearance

I don't live in Vancouver, but I do live in an area adjoining the eastern part of the city and near Canuck's neighbourhood. My location and the fact that Canuck was still missing is probably why posters about him appeared in my neighbourhood. The $10,000 award was provided by donors who wanted 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.

Beauty and Danger in Nature

About two months ago, I was walking in the area where the poster above was 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 with the news.

References

  • Northwestern crow information from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  • Facts about the bird from Audubon
  • Corvus caurinus facts from the City of Richmond in southwestern 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)

© 2019 Linda Crampton

Comments

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 13, 2020:

Thanks, Peggy. I would like Canuck to be found alive, too, but I've seen no recent news about him. Crows are certainly intelligent, as you say. It's always interesting to learn something new about them.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 13, 2020:

That is an amazing story about Canuck! I hope that he is found and that he is safe. Crows are intelligent creatures. Thanks for featuring this article.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 11, 2019:

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

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on November 11, 2019:

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!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 08, 2019:

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.

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on November 08, 2019:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 29, 2019:

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.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on October 29, 2019:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 21, 2019:

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

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on October 21, 2019:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 17, 2019:

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

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on October 17, 2019:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 13, 2019:

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 from San Diego California on October 13, 2019:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 13, 2019:

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

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on October 13, 2019:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 12, 2019:

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

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on October 12, 2019:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 12, 2019:

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.

Linda Chechar from Arizona on October 12, 2019:

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!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 11, 2019:

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.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on October 11, 2019:

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!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 11, 2019:

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.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 11, 2019:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 11, 2019:

Hi, Bill. Crows can certainly be entertaining! Thanks for the visit.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 11, 2019:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 11, 2019:

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

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 11, 2019:

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

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 11, 2019:

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.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 11, 2019:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 10, 2019:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 10, 2019:

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 from USA on October 10, 2019:

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.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on October 10, 2019:

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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