Russell the Crow

Russell the Crow has found a new home in the Upland River Room and we are beyond excited! Not to be confused with the famous actor from down under, our beloved resident is not a movie star, and SHE isn’t even a “he.” American crows are not sexually dimorphic, which means that males and females look exactly alike. Not until we sent a feather for DNA testing did we learn that Russell was, in fact, a “Sheryl,” (but the original name has stuck). Regardless, she is beloved and has captured the hearts of Aquarium staff and guests alike.

Russell was donated to us in 2011 and was on exhibit in the South Building before renovations began. Believed to have fallen from her nest, she was found as a chick and hand-reared by humans*. She developed arthritis in her right leg and foot, we suspect from her early fall, and requires supplements and close veterinary monitoring. Because of this early human care, Russell has imprinted on humans and doesn’t always behave like other crows.

While we of course don’t know for certain what she is thinking, sometimes it appears like Russell thinks she is a person! Russell’s entertaining behavior makes her a favorite among guests and staff alike. She talks and can say “hello,” “what,” and a few other vocalizations. She can even mimic the whir of a siren and a human laugh!

We are thrilled to welcome Russell to her new enclosure in the Upland River Room. We are confident she will thrive in her new exhibit as it very closely resembles the natural habitat of American crows. Because the roof is made of skylights, both the habitat’s temperature and light cycle easily follow a natural daily and seasonal rhythm.

Like other American crows, Russell is a cunning, inquisitive, and social bird needing interaction with others. She will get plenty of social enrichment watching, listening, and interacting with the other songbirds in the room and will also flourish on the company of humans. We chose for her enclosure to be in an area where there would be plenty of traffic and stimulation for her. Every visitor passes through the Upland River Room and the exhibit is staffed by volunteers all day making it the perfect environment for her. Russell thrives on attention!

With so many people walking through the Upland River Room, it was important to allow Russell to be safe and comfortable in her own space. That’s why we chose to build a brand new exhibit area for her within the Upland River Room. She’s so comfortable around people that we wanted to make sure she was safe and didn’t drop in on an unsuspecting guest to say “Hello!” We are so excited to be able to share Russell with our guests in such an intimate way and are confident that they will enjoy watching and engaging in her daily training sessions. Currently Russell is learning to discriminate colors!

Russell is a treasure to us all and is a fantastic ambassador for the American crow teaching us just how amazing these birds are. Come meet Russell! You will never look at the big black bird in your backyard the same way again. It is also our hope that you will leave inspired to join us in protecting the natural habitats of all animals.​

*If you find an abandoned or injured wild animal, please contact the Virginia Beach Animal Control or a licensed wildlife rehabilitator as they will know how to treat and care for the animal in a way that will give it the best chance of returning to its natural habitat.