Meet the Vancouver veterinarian tending to Canuck the Crow

Dr. Anne McDonald has been treating the crow at the Night Owl Bird Hospital

On Saturday, someone attending a soccer tournament at Adanac Park in East Vancouver hit Canuck the Crow on the head with a flagpole. Canuck was reportedly unconscious for 10 or 15 minutes before flying off, later to be found by his best human friend Shawn Bergman.

Today, Canuck is under the care of veterinarian Dr. Anne McDonald at the Night Owl Bird Hospital on West Broadway near Arbutus.

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The Courier talked to McDonald about Canuck’s condition and prognosis, as well as about what her clinic does for the bird population in the city.

How is Canuck?

I would say today he’s stable and he’s more active and certainly more alert.

For an injury like this, what do you do in terms of an examination or how do you determine what’s wrong and the treatment?

A lot of it is watching and looking for things like what is his vision like, what is his ability to walk like, what is his ability to use his wings like. It’s basic, progressive examination over time and seeing how he responds. Then, there’s radiographing and laboratory work, those sorts of things. We’ve been working our way through it.

What’s the prognosis?

He’s in pretty good shape, I would say. But the concern is how well does he have to be to go back out into the wild? That’s just too early to say.

He’ll be there for a while then?

I would think for a few days.

Is he showing any distress about being in the hospital rather than out in the wild?

I think he’s quite social. He likes people but you can’t ever replace the wild. It would just be wonderful if you could have them wild and look after them at the same time but it doesn’t work like that.

Is he in a cage? Can you let him wander at all?

This is one of the things… one of the reasons and probably the single most important reason for keeping him is to keep him confined and quiet. Because when you look at his injuries, and he was evidently hit with a pole, then you’re talking about things that will do best if your blood pressure stays even and you don’t do things like, if you’re a bird, fly. Rest is a really major part of all of this… he just needs to be treated with medicine for discomfort, anti-inflammatories and things that facilitate the body healing. Sleep is one of the most important things.

How long has the Night Owl Bird Hospital been around?

We started at the Vancouver Animal Emergency Clinic, I think in 1984. Then I bought it… in 1990. So, 27 years.

Do you typically deal with wild birds or pet birds?

No. We deal with pet birds. But we do the swans at the park. We do some other work but it’s extremely limited. We used to do more but as Vancouver has changed, the wild bird population has as well. So, we don’t do much wild birds at all anymore.

So, it would be unusual to have a case like Canuck?

Well, we do crows but most crows don’t come attached to the public or with the public attached.

What types of birds do you treat?

We [treat] the Psittacine parrot family. That’s budgies through to macaws. And we do some of the canary-type birds too.

How many birds would you treat a year?

I think we’re at 3,000 or something like that. We’ve been around for a long time. We have a clientele and there aren’t many other people who treat birds.

What kinds of cases do you see?

We see everything. We get a lot of trauma cases. Birds have things happen to them. They have feather issues. Then we see regular medical cases like respiratory disease, liver disease. We see a lot of now what you would call diseases of captivity. Our parrots now have dietarily induced heart disease, vascular disease, liver disease. Inactivity and diets that are too rich are probably a really major component of it all. Reproductive problems also.

Is it costly to treat birds?

It’s no less expensive than a cat or dog.

Do you see that people are more willing to spend to treat their pets than perhaps in the past.

I’ve been a veterinarian for a long time. When I first started to work at the emergency clinic, people would willingly spend money on their dogs and then with a cat would say, it’s just a cat. That’s not what people say anymore. The general trend is, over time, that people have diversified in their attachments so now I’ve had lots of budgies that are just the centre of the world for people. And these birds, they’re smart, they’re interactive. So you get a really strong bond. You get a really strong bond between people and their birds.

Will it be expensive to treat Canuck?

I’ve learned that everybody has their different ideas about what’s expensive. I think, relatively speaking, we’ve have done wild birds as they have come in and we’ve absorbed those costs largely. But people give us donations for treating them. So, of course, it’s expensive because you pay your staff, you pay for X-rays, you do some blood work, you do any bacterial culturing.

What would you like people to know about birds that you don’t think they know?

If you’re in a situation where you have a wild bird that is a baby, if it can possibly be raised in community with other birds of its own species, that would be preferable. I just hope Canuck is a little bit wiser in his choices of activities as he goes back into the real world. Crows are smart, so I’m hoping he will not be as trusting as he is now. He really assumes everybody is his best friend and, of course, that’s not the case. When you’re raised by your parents, they teach you things. When you’re raised by humans, they just don’t have the same skills. So it’s a very kind thing for people to raise orphaned birds, but if it can be done in such a way in combination with some biological information so you don’t end up with a strongly imprinted bird, and if you do, you have to make adjustments for that as well. [Canuck] is a great individual. Just great. It’s a wonderful thing for people of [the] community to have an individual like him. He’s a great ambassador for crows in general, and he’s a wonderful thing for children to see and learn about, but the cost to him so far… I mean, he’s done well to get as far as he has in age and not have something terrible happen to him, but I can only really hope that he’s a little bit wiser for it.


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