More white ravens spot­ted on the Is­land

Pho­tog­ra­pher de­clares Qualicum Beach-Coombs area world cap­i­tal of the rare birds

The Province - - NEWS - DARRON KLOSTER

VIC­TO­RIA — A white raven spot­ted in the Qualicum Beach-Coombs area this sum­mer is the off­spring of tra­di­tional black ravens that have been pro­duc­ing the ge­netic anom­alies for two decades on the cen­tral Is­land, says a noted bird pho­tog­ra­pher and au­thor.

Mike Yip says the mys­te­ri­ous white ravens are con­sid­ered leucis­tic — not al­bino, which have no pig­ment at all.

These ravens have blue eyes and likely have ge­netic de­fects that di­lute their nat­u­ral colour.

“They are a freak of na­ture,” Yip said.

He hasn’t seen the white raven this year but has been doc­u­ment­ing and pho­tograph­ing the strange corvids since 2007. Al­though there was a re­port of a white raven in Haida Gwaii more than 30 years ago, Yip said the cen­tral Is­land birds are unique.

“I’ve de­clared the re­gion White Raven Cap­i­tal of the World, and no­body’s dis­puted it,” he said.

The lat­est sight­ings show at least one white raven by it­self and with other ravens and some crows.

Lisa Bell, a Qualicum Beach res­i­dent, pho­tographed the white raven on the beach last week.

“It came with two crows, landed re­ally close to us and started eat­ing tiny crabs,” said Bell, who took sev­eral pho­tos. “He just pecked around and per­formed for me for about an hour. He wasn’t scared at all. It was amaz­ing to watch.”

Sci­en­tists say ravens typ­i­cally live for up to 20 years and mate for life. They lay up to five eggs each sea­son.

Yip be­lieves the mat­ing pair on the cen­tral Is­land have been pro­duc­ing be­tween two and three white ravens a year, along with tra­di­tional black ravens.

It isn’t clear how old the mat­ing pair might be or whether there are other pairs with the re­ces­sive gene.

Yip said at least two white ravens were hatched last year.

It’s not known whether this year’s sight­ings in­volve one bird or sev­eral. Yip be­lieves the white ravens don’t live long in the wild.

“Oth­er­wise, I think we would see a lot more of them around over the past sev­eral years,” he said. “If they are fly­ing to other ar­eas, there would be sight­ings.”

Yip did find one white raven car­cass a few years ago. He said the feath­ers of the white ravens aren’t as durable or warm as their black coun­ter­parts, and noted they may also have weaker eye­sight.

Bell said she cher­ished the time spent watch­ing the white raven, and adds it to a grow­ing list of strange en­coun­ters she’s had with birds over the years.

MIKE YIP

Mys­te­ri­ous white ravens are con­sid­ered leucis­tic — not al­bino, which have no pig­ment at all.

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