For the Birds Radio Program: Callie and Sam

Original Air Date: Dec. 20, 1989

What’s it like to have two crows in your living room?

Audio missing


Callie and Sam

(Recording of a American Crow)

“That Sam-I-am! That Sam-I-am! I do not like that Sam-I-am!” begins the Dr. Seuss book that inspired my little boy Tommy to name the newest acquisition to our bird hospital “Sam-I-am.” Sam is a gorgeous male crow with a busted wing. He was hanging around Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood for several weeks—a few people reported an injured crow, but he was quite good at hiding our whenever I came around. But he was clearly weakening until Lisa Melby managed to catch him by throwing a blanket over him—then it was an easy matter to get him into a box and over to my place. The wing has a huge lump where the broken bone calcified—it hangs down wrong, and he can’t fly, but the only way it could be repaired now is for a veterinary surgeon to rebreak and set the wing under anesthesia. His weakened condition was due to an infection—I’ve been giving him amoxycillin since the day he came, and now he’s nice and perky.

Meanwhile, Calpurnia had been getting sort of depressed—I think it was starting to hit her that she was stuck indoors with a bunch of humans and no one of her own kind. As much as I try to give her a quality existence, and as adaptable as crows are, humans look pretty repulsive to them, and she was starting to act in a way that I could only describe as lonesome. She hadn’t quite built up her weight to a normal level—she had been badly emaciated when she came, and now she suddenly seemed to be losing ground. But then Sam-I-am came on the scene. When I brought him into the house, I set him loose in the dining room by Callie and he immediately hopped over to the perch next to her. Apparently her presence made him feel comfortable right away, and he quickly jumped down and started eating her food, which she had hardly touched all day. Well that suddenly perked up her interest in the food, too, and she hopped down and grabbed some herself. Between the two of them, they gobbled down about four ounces of left over turkey, two hard-boiled eggs, and a cup of Purina High-Pro in ten minutes flat. When my kids had a sherbet snack, I dropped a spoonful in a dish and Sam grabbed it, swallowed it whole, and looked for more. When it got dark, Callie hopped down and jumped into her box. Sam didn’t know the routine, and I didn’t know how either of them would feel being cooped up together in Callie’s small box, but I decided to give them a trial together. When I put him in the box next to her, she nuzzled his beak and he nuzzled her back. That’s how I left them—the next morning they were side by side, the best of friends.

So now I have two crows. They seem to like the routine here—Sam especially seems to appreciate the variety of the food here and the ease of getting it—I think losing the battle to survive in the cold with a broken wing was wounding his spirits. Callie’s spirits too are high again—she’s fluffing out and preening herself often, and has gained quite a bit of weight. Sam is as pleasant to have around as Callie, but in an entirely different way. Where she is meek and mild, he is cocky. Where she is slender and small, he has a bull neck and massive body. Where she bows her head to allow me to stroke her, he stares me right in the eye when I pet him. But like Callie, he seems to enjoy handling, if only to relish his own daring at being so close to a human. I don’t need gloves to handle him—he actually seems to prefer my bare hands, even when I give him his medicine. It’s sad to have to keep any wild bird indoors, but overall, it’s better to have two than one.

(Recording of a American Crow)

This is Laura Erickson and this program has been “For the Birds.”