Crows are one of the most recognisable and common species of birds across the world. These gregarious species thrive in large flocks in the wild, but do people keep them as pets, and more importantly, is it legal to keep a crow as a pet?
Crows are one of several bird species that fall under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA), making it illegal to have one as a pet in the United States. It is also illegal to harm or harass birds that fall under this treaty.
There are a few circumstances under the MBTA that allow for the temporary care of crows. If you find a sick or injured bird, or abandoned chicks, you may obtain a permit to take the crow into your care until it is fully rehabilitated. However, there are several stipulations and requirements you must meet to obtain one of these permits.
It is important to note that the MBTA covers crow species native to the United States. There are a couple of non-native species that are bred and sold as pets.
These are legal to obtain in the US, but whether or not it is a good idea to have one is another story. We will discuss those species later in this article.
We will also discuss the specifics for obtaining a permit in case you do ever come across an injured wild crow and wish to rehabilitate it.
In the UK, government law on keeping wild birds states that 'You must not keep any wild bird (or its egg or nest) unless you can prove it was taken or killed legally.'
Generally speaking, the only time in the UK people keep wild birds, or take them in, is when they're unfit for release. But you'll need to be able to prove that this is, in fact, the case.
Reasons for doing so include:
When keeping any wild birds, it's best to check if you need a license to do so - more information can be found on the UK governments website here.
It's illegal to have native crows species as pets in the US and the UK
It is possible to have a crow without being a wildlife rehabilitator.
There are a couple of crow species that are legal to keep as pets. Because they are non-native to the United States, they are not covered under the MBTA. Those species include the pied crow and the white-necked raven.
These birds are much like our native crow personality-wise. They just have slightly different appearances.
Pet crow species can be hard to come by as they typically come from breeders. You will not likely walk into an exotic pet store and find a crow.
However, difficulty finding one is not the hardest part about having one of these birds as a pet. Before you decide you need one, you should first determine whether or not it would make a suitable companion.
Crows are magnificent birds. Beautiful, intelligent, social, vocal, and, well, wild. Despite attempts to domesticate certain species, none have truly been successful. While one can certainly understand the draw of having a crow companion, it is best not to keep one captive. They do not make suitable pets.
Because the crow has higher intelligence than other birds, they do not adapt well to captivity. These birds become easily stressed when they are not allowed to fly freely, thus they cannot be kept in a cage. A captive stressed crow can also be rather destructive and may show aggression.
The best setup for a captive crow is a large aviary that offers space enough for the bird to fly as well as hop around on the ground. These can be expensive to build and the bird is still unlikely to adapt to this environment.
As you may know, crows are also very vocal. You may enjoy the ravings of a wild crow temporarily outside your window, but having one as a pet is a different story. Their frequent vocalizations can quickly grow old.
Crows are also extremely social animals. They need companions to live happy, full lives. Though the species can bond with humans, they should have the company of their own kind.
Crows are highly intelligent, which is one of the reasons they've never adapted well to being kept in captivity
In order to legally care for a sick, injured, or orphaned crow you must apply for a Federal Migratory Bird Rehabilitation permit. You should know, however, that these permits are rather difficult to obtain if you are not a bird rehabilitation center or do not have previous experience working specifically with crows.
The permit requires the person applying to have at least 100 hours of previous hands-on crow rehabilitation experience. You must also have a facility that meets the designated requirements. Photos and blueprints must be provided in the application.
There are also limits on the number of days you may have the crow in your care. 180 days is the max, but you can apply for an extension if the bird is not ready.
Even if you meet all of the federal regulations, you must also ensure your state does not require a separate license. If they do, you will need to apply for a state-level permit as well.
All that to say, unless you are already a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, it will be difficult for you to legally care for a crow. Likely, it would be easier (and more helpful for the animal), if you take them to an established bird rehabilitation center.
In the US, unless you have a wildlife rehabilitation license, it's not legal for you to care for a crow
Pet crows such as the ones discussed above are not easy to come by. They can also be very expensive. Purchasing one from a breeder may cost anywhere from $2,000 to $6,000.
If you are seriously contemplating having a crow as a pet, you should also factor in the cost of building an appropriate aviary. Assuring you have the time and ability to provide the bird a happy and social life is an important consideration also.
Crows can be tamed to be rehabilitated or, in the case of non-native species, potentially kept as a pet. However, it is important to remember these birds are not domesticated like parrots or parakeets.
Even crows bred in captivity maintain their wild instincts. The most experienced trainers still have difficulty keeping these birds happy when they are captive.
American Crow stealing an egg, Florida
Like dogs, cats are intelligent and able to solve fairly complex problems. However, crows are generally smarter than most cats (and other pets) because of their ability to use tools to further problem solve.
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