The African Pied Crow (Corvus Albus)

Is that a penguin? A question heard almost daily as I unload my animals.   Believe it or not, he's a crow.  Not just any crow, but one of those fabulous African Pied Crows.

You see, for the past 15 years I've been using animals for education-7 years giving guided tours at the beautiful Soco Gardens Zoo in Maggie Valley, NC and the last 8 years traveling to the schools in the Southeast, doing educational programs with live animals.

My love for those fabulous corvids started when I was just a boy growing up in the small town of Maribel, Wisconsin.  I raised an orphaned American Crow, which flew freely around my parent's farm.  And when I moved to Mobile, Alabama, I couldn't leave him behind.  The change of climate and scenery didn't suit him.  Each day when I came in from work, I'd have to call longer for my pal to come to me.  I knew he was venturing out, and I was afraid of what someone might to do to him.  So I trimmed his wings, about two inches off each wing.  This will keep him close now (I thought), he won't be able to wander far and he can still fly enough to escape dogs and children. (Wrong).  One week later, only two weeks after arriving in Alabama, he was gone.  I searched high and low, talking to every crow I would see.   Two weeks he was missing, then the phone rang.  My father said, "Did you lose that crazy bird?"  "Yes, of course, how did you know?"  I replied.  "He's here," Dad said, "He flew home."   "Couldn't be, I clipped his wings!" I exclaimed in disbelief.   "Well, he looks bad, rough trip, but he's here," Dad went on to say.   Yes, my crow had flown home from Mobile, Alabama to Maribel, Wisconsin in two weeks with his wings clipped.  Unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable.

Well, I've been working with animals all my life.  Until recently, however, my fantasies about crows were just that.  Even though I have acquired a special purpose possession permit from the U.S. Department of the Interior to keep non-releasable migratory birds for education, I wanted to raise crows.

I was able to obtain some African Pied Crows about 4 years ago.  To me, they have truly been a gift from God.  These big handsome crows are the true representatives of the common Raven (Corvus Corax) in Africa, their gestures, behavior and courtship being very similar.  Their size is between that of an American Crow and that of a common Raven.  They are gloss black on snow white with a huge raven-like bill.  They really must be seen to be appreciated.

I have kept one of my babies from 3 years ago to use in my educational programs in schools.  He was an instant success.  He quickly learned to put aluminum cans in a recycle bin.   The children truly love to see him show off.  He is an excellent mimic.   He calls my name so often and so clearly, that my wife no longer gets a response from me.  His first police siren imitation nearly pulled me over (he was riding in the back of my van).  His name is Houdini (for his ability to open sky kennels) He is really a joy to be around.

Because crows and ravens are among the most intelligent birds in the world, and people have been keeping them throughout history, most people know of a great pet crow story.

But today, although most states allow you to shoot them, Federal laws strictly prohibit the keeping of American crows and ravens for pets.  No permits are issued for that purpose.  This makes these beautiful Africans a great alternative.

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