Rare Raven Flies Free After Getting a Feather Transplant

Thanks to the kindness of a caring citizen and the expertise of wildlife rehabilitators in Virginia, a common raven has been successfully returned to her home in the wild after being rescued and receiving months of care and a feather transplant.

The raven was first spotted by Maureen Bergin, an IT specialist at Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield earlier this spring in the parking lot where she worked in Henrico County with missing feathers that left her unable to fly.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch Bergin tried for two months to get professional help for her as her condition deteriorated, but it wasn’t until the bird was identified as a raven, who usually stick to the mountains and are rare in the area, that anyone responded.

In the meantime the raven’s mate had been bringing her food, while Bergin also fed her and attempted to lure her into a carrier so she could take her to get help.

“You sing to it and it would make these clucking sounds back at you,” Bergin said. “It was really cool. As long as I didn’t make eye contact, she would talk to me.”

Still she had no luck catching her. Finally in June, she was officially identified by Barbara Slatcher who is a local rehabber, caught by officials from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and taken to a vet for an initial exam before being transferred to the Wildlife Center of Virginia where she was an unusual patient. According to the center, it’s admitted fewer than 10 ravens since 2000.

Though rescuers say she was still lively when she showed up, tests confirmed that she was covered in mites that were responsible for causing her feather loss and treatment began. She responded well and some of her feathers had started to grow in by September, but there were still too many broken and damaged ones for her to be safely released so the staff decided to do a “feather transplant” to help get her on her way home.

For birds, a feather transplant is called “imping” and involves attaching flight feathers from a donor bird onto the shafts of feathers of the bird who needs new ones by inserting small splints between the two. Donor feathers in this case came from Avian Haven in Maine and the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota and resulted in six new feathers on her right wing and one on the left.

Credit: Wildlife Center of Virginia

Fortunately, the procedure was a success and after carefully monitoring her new feathers and helping build her strength after one last health check she was cleared for release this week. About 100 people gathered at Bryan Park in Richmond to hear her story and see her off.

No one knows whether she’ll stick around the area or whether she’ll find her mate, but Randy Huwa, executive vice president of the center said if he’s still in the area, she shouldn’t have any trouble catching up to him.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Georgia a.
Georgia a2 years ago

How tremendous! Any time one of God's creatures is saved, my heart swells with joy. God bless all involved in this, especially the woman who first noticed the raven.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Sheila S.
Sheila S3 years ago

In going through a backlog of articles, I'm glad I stopped to read this one instead of hitting "delete"!

Jennifer Hayes
Jennifer H4 years ago

What a pretty bird. I am so glad somebody finally listened and helped the poor bird. Hopefully, she will be able to reunite with her mate.

Nancy M.
Nancy M4 years ago

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story.

Betty Kelly
Betty Kelly4 years ago

Good story about people helping animals.

Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey4 years ago

Here's hoping she made it ok

Warren Webber
Warren Webber4 years ago

Live long and prosper

Rhonda B.
Rhonda B4 years ago

Thank you

Charlie Rush
Charlene Rush4 years ago

Thank goodness for caring people