Catching and Handling of Crows, Jay, Magpie etc. (Wildlife Casualty Management)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / UK Wildlife Casualty Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B. This information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty Handling and Transport which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Corvus monedula - Eurasian jackdaw, Corvus frugilegus - Rook, Corvus corax - Common raven, Corvus corone - Carrion crow, Garrulus glandarius - Eurasian jay, Pica pica - Black-billed magpie, Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax - Red-billed chough.

These species are from the families Corvidae.

  • Corvids have a strong peck/bite and should always be held well away from anyone's face, hands and arms.
  • Corvid talons are very strong and can inflict both scratches and crushing injuries.

Catching and Handling:

  • Catching may require the use of a large net with a long handle even for casualty birds which are unable to fly since they are frequently still fast-moving and agile.
    • A net with a padded rim is preferred.
    • The bag of the net should be deep and of thin opaque material or small mesh to minimise the risk of entanglement.
  • Weak or injured corvids may be caught by first throwing a towel or similar cloth over the bird.
  • Once in the net or towel, the bird should be grasped across the shoulders with the thumbs of the handler facing upwards/dorsally, restraining the wings so that they cannot flap. 
  • The fingers can then be repositioned to restrain the legs between the third and fourth fingers of each hand. The legs should be controlled in this way as soon as possible.

Restraint for examination and treatment:

  • May require two people, one to hold the bird, paying particular attention to restraint of the head/bill and talons, whilst the second person performs the examination.
  • Subdued lighting should be used if possible to calm the bird and facilitate handling.
  • Covering the bird's head with a lightweight cloth may help to keep the bird calm during the examination.
  • The wings and legs should be released to the examiner one at a time to permit examination.
  • The bill may be kept closed during handling (to prevent pecking) by use of an elastic band or piece of tape around the end of the bill. It is important to remember that corvids normally regurgitate pellets of undigested material and that weak birds may regurgitate fluid. If the bill is to be held closed it is essential that:
    • The nostrils must not be covered as this will interfere with breathing.
    • The bird must be under continuous supervision whilst the bill is being kept closed.
    • At some point during the examination the mouth should be opened and examined thoroughly.
    • The band or tape is removed before leaving the bird unmonitored.
  • Prolonged examination and treatment may be best performed under general anaesthesia.

(B118.5.w5, B123, B151, V.w5, V.w26)

General Anaesthesia (Generic "Bird" Information)

  • A variety of techniques have been used for induction and maintenance of general anaesthesia in birds including injectable anaesthetics such as ketamine, propofol, saffan, medetomidine, etc and gaseous anaesthetics such as halothane and isoflurane. Further information regarding the use of different anaesthetic agents is available as described for use in waterfowl.  See:
  • Isoflurane is currently considered to be the anaesthetic agent of choice for induction and maintenance of general anaesthesia in birds in most circumstances and species.
    • Induction of general anaesthesia with a gaseous agent can be achieved using a face mask or induction chamber.
    • Use of an anaesthetic chamber for induction may be preferable with small birds because it avoids the stress involved with manual restraint during mask induction.
    • The walls of the anaesthetic chamber should preferably be made of a transparent or translucent material that facilitates easy monitoring of the patient during induction and transfer to an anaesthetic mask or intubation at the appropriate depth of general anaesthesia.
    • In the majority of cases, intubation of birds is recommended during the maintenance of general anaesthesia. However, for very small birds and / or very short procedures intubation may not be appropriate. Clinical judgement should be used to determine whether intubation is appropriate for the size of species, procedure and likely duration of general anaesthesia required.
    • The majority of birds have simple solid cartilaginous rings within the trachea. As a consequence, the use of cuffed endotracheal tubes is not generally recommended because of the potential risk of the cuff exerting local pressure which could damage the trachea and lead to secondary tissue necrosis. The use of a non-cuffed endotracheal tubes is generally recommended. However in specific circumstances where the risks of gastrointestinal contents reflux (e.g. flushing of the gizzard to remove particulate lead material in waterfowl) may be particularly high, partial inflation of a cuffed tube may be practised with great care.
  • The need for fluid therapy by an appropriate route should be considered during general anaesthesia, particularly in birds which may be dehydrated. Clinical judgement, based on general principles, must be used regarding the route, volume and type of fluids required.
  • Consideration should be given to prevent hypothermia. The ambient temperature of the room should be comfortably warm (20oC - 25oC) and external heat sources may be appropriate (e.g. heat mats etc.), particularly for longer anaesthetics and collapsed animals. Care must be taken not to overheat the animal or cause burns.
  • There must be good ventilation in any room used for gaseous anaesthesia. In normal circumstances an anaesthetic gas scavenging system should be in place, particularly when masks and chambers are used. Exposure to anaesthetic gases can pose a risk to the operating staff, either through toxic effects of the gas or inadvertent self-anaesthesia of the veterinary and nursing staff.
  • Further information, with particular reference to waterfowl, and including emergency procedures, is available in: Treatment and Care - Anaesthesia and Chemical Restraint.

(B11, B13.39.w16, B14, B197, V.w5, V.w6 V.w26)

Appropriate Use (?)
  • Catch only if necessary.
  • Handling of wild animals should be minimised.
  • Consider design of accommodation and timing of treatments to minimise requirements for capture and handling.
  • Excessive chasing should be avoided as this is very stressful to the bird.(B118.5.w5)
  • Consider whether physical or chemical restraint is more appropriate.
  • Gloves may be useful for protection when handling the larger species; however gloves decrease sensitivity and dexterity therefore their use is not always appropriate, particularly for the smaller species.
  • A net with a padded rim is recommended to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Thin opaque material or small mesh net minimises the risk of entanglement.
  • Handling in subdued light often quietens diurnal birds.(B118.5.w5, B123)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Pecking/biting , particularly by the larger species, may be painful.
  • Claws are sharp and may scratch.
  • There is a risk of regurgitation and inhalation in a bird with its bill held closed.
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Suitable net for catching.
  • Cloths for catching and covering the head.
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Handling of these species is not difficult; however experience is advantageous.
Cost/ Availability
  • Appropriate nets may be available from specialist suppliers, veterinary suppliers or some good pet stores; they may be expensive.
  • Nets may also be constructed from readily-available materials.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
Author Debra Bourne
Referee Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman

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