A Lake of Bays woman takes an orphaned raven into her heart
Story by Pamela Steel
No one knows if Charlie fell or was pushed.
Lynn Boothby was working in her garden on Poverty Lane in Lake of Bays on May 10 when two angry ravens began to swoop down on her.
“I said to myself, I bet there is a baby raven out of the nest,” she says.
There have been ravens on or near the property for 30 years, and a large raven’s nest sits in the tall pines near the garden.
Upon investigation, she found a tiny baby raven in the corner of her woodshed. She called her brother, who carried the baby to the base of the pine.
“We were hoping the parents would come and lead their baby to safety as they had done a couple of years prior with another baby raven. Hoping for the best we left him there,” she writes in a letter to her family.
The next morning, the baby raven was back in the same corner of the woodshed.
“Since Plan A didn’t work, I got some straw and made him a nest in that corner and brought him some dog food on an aluminum pie plate and a dish of water.”
Boothby watched him throughout the day as he hopped closer to the house. That night she learned from a friend that to feed the tiny baby raven she would have to mimic the missing parent that would regurgitate food and water to feed its young.
She named the baby raven Charlie Bird and learned how to feed him with a syringe.
Charlie had not had any nourishment for almost 72 hours. But the tiny bird was a trooper and after a little food and water he started squawking and hopping about.
“I kept hoping the parents would show some interest, but that didn’t happen. The neighbour’s dog chased him under the huge pines and he got stuck in the branches. I got him out and thought I’d better try to do something to give him some protection until he could fly.”
One of Boothby’s dogs, a retired member of the OPP canine unit, had a large cage. She put in straw for bedding bottom and Charlie took refuge there at night, wandering freely in the daytime.
“His squawking seemed to mean that he was hungry so I jammed dog food and squirted water down that little throat about three to four times a day.”
As he got older, she taught him how to eat an egg.
“The first thing ravens teach their young is how to eat an egg,” she says. “I had to teach him.”
She stabbed the shell with a fork and he poked in his beak, finding he liked the taste.
“He has this thing about eggshells. He has to hide them. We’re finding these eggshells hidden behind my perennial patch. He fills up the pouch under his beak and then he looks around like, ‘Where can I go hide this?’”
Charlie Bird started following Boothby around throughout the day, trying to socialize with the woman and her dogs. He quickly learned to come when called.
“He found and brought a red glass Christmas tree ornament from somewhere and dropped it like a cat does a mouse,” says Boothby. “He followed me more closely and all the time.”
The tiny black bird had become family.
“On Wednesday, May 25, I saw him fly and I thought that might mean the end of our visit.”
It was not. Charlie Bird had good fun flying about, resting on the roof of the house and hanging out with Boothby and the dogs.
Once he could fly, Boothby stopped putting the bird in the cage at night.
“I am hoping he will rejoin his raven world and fall in love with a nice boy or girl raven someday soon,” she says. “No such luck yet.”
However three other young birds Boothby thinks may be his siblings began to fly with Charlie. They play together, much to the woman’s delight. She describes him as hilarious.
“They play hopscotch together, jumping around the roof. He is so, so funny. He drags ropes, gloves, papers, rags, and he is now destroying all my flower planters. I have to put up makeshift cages to save them.”
She wonders at his energy.
“He’s always picking up things that are bright; he sits on top of the car and squawks to get my attention.”
He can also be destructive, picking out the rubber around doorframes. Boothby sometimes has to spray him with the garden hose to control him.
Charlie takes up a lot of Boothby’s time. She has to get up at 5 a.m. to chase away the neighbour’s dogs as Charlie appears at the front patio door, staring and squawking at them. She feeds him and he goes on his way for a few hours, returning to join Boothby in the garden to spend the day with her.
“This is his home, where he belongs, where he comes for food and safety.”
Though Boothby has fallen head over heels in love with Charlie Bird, she wants what is best for the raven. She’s been on the phone with the Ministry of Natural Resources, trying to work out a long-term plan for getting him back to the wild.
He hasn’t had much luck hunting; the other ravens protect their territory from him. However, if there has been a wolf kill he won’t come to Boothby for food that day.
The wild ravens that live in the eagle-sized nest in the tall pines have been coming back for as long as she can remember. She believes the original pair has been living there for 30 years. They stay year-round, living off road kill in the winter.
“They mate for life. Like wolves, the young go off and start their own family. We’re trying to do that with Charlie Bird. I try to hold back the food to force him to learn to take care of himself.”
She has contacted two wildlife organizations and both have said they won’t take him unless he can’t survive on his own. A wild life is what everyone wants for Charlie Bird.
“He’s a work in progress. It’s amazing. I had no idea this experience was going to work out this way.”