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One-winged raven learns to paint, recycle to overcome adversity

Duncan, B.C. -

Before she started preparing paints to play with Kyle the raven, Brooke Whitelaw was learning to be aware while feeding him.

"I was like, 'Oh my god! What’s happening?!'"

Brooke says the first time she and the bird worked together at The Raptors conservation and education centre, Kyle found a way to sneak all the food away from her.

"I would say he’s a cheeky toddler," the biologist and educational manager laughs. "But he’s also incredibly intelligent."

During the three years since then, Brooke and Kyle have become best buddies.

"You’re such a good boy," Brooke says as the raven jumps from his perch onto her arm and responds with an enthusiastic "caw-caw" sound, and flaps his one wing.

Kyle first arrived here after a dog attack left him with a badly broken wing.

"Normally a bird would not have a good quality of life without a wing," Robyn Radcliffe says.

But, the Raptors director says Kyle’s personality was proving to be anything but normal.

"He was running around, jumping on people’s shoulders, sitting in our laps," Robyn says.

The director says he was unnaturally comfortable with people.

"Ravens should fear us."

She suspects that Kyle was likely raised by well-meaning humans who released the raven into the wild without the skills to protect himself.

But seeing as Kyle showed the potential to have a good quality of life away from the wild, they decided to amputate Kyle’s wing instead of euthanizing him.

"It was amazing how quickly he adapted," Robyn says. "It was outstanding."

Within days, the raven was playing with LEGO, before attempting to steal sandals from visiting children’s feet so he could use them as toys.

"So we started to brainstorm some activities we could do with him," Brooke says.

The first thing they taught Kyle was recycling.

Now he hops around the ground picking up cans and bottle with his beak, before jumping up to the edge of a blue box and depositing them inside.

"And our message there was, if a one-winged raven can recycle, so can all of us," Brooke smiles.

But, if that one-winged raven has a goal-oriented personality and is fuelled by overcoming challenges and mastering skills, you need to keep teaching him something new.

"[Ravens] are considered to have the intelligence of a three-year-old," Robyn says, after rewarding Kyle with a snack for a job well done. "And you can definitely see that here."

So they decided to cultivate Kyle’s creativity by teaching the raven how to paint.

At first, Kyle put paint everywhere but the canvas, and occasionally ripped-up the painting sponge in frustration. But once he got it, the raven seemed to relish it.

Kyle grabs the paint covered sponge in his beak and starts dabbing it on the canvas.

When he’s done, the bird caws and stops to have a quick snack while Brooke applies a new colour of paint. Then Kyle starts enthusiastically painting again.

"He is food motivated," Brooke says. "But it's also rewarding for him to figure something out and do something."

Once Kyle has used all the colours on the palate, he jumps away from the canvas and seems to caw, "I’m done!"

"It’s a beautiful abstract painting," Brooke says proudly, holding the canvas covered in blossoms of bright colours.

While they appreciate the work he does, Kyle’s human friends are even more inspired by how he’s overcome adversity to excel at it.

"He’s so happy," Robyn smiles. "He has so much fun!"

And no doubt Kyle will be excited when he finds out the next skill they’re going to teach him is how to play soccer. Top Stories

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