An iconic white raven has returned to an area north of Nanaimo.
Local photographer John Domovich managed to snap a photo in Whiskey Creek on June 3. He said he’d seen the bird in the days before, but had only gotten a chance to get a picture on his cellphone. This time, he was able to zoom in on the tall timber it was in and patiently wait for a photograph.
“It blew me away when I first observed it. At first I thought it was a gull and wondered what a gull was doing so far inland. It wasn’t until a black raven landed next to it that I knew it was a white raven,” said Domovich. “I only had my [cellphone camera] with me and figured I’d never see it again. When I saw it the second time I vowed to bring my digital camera next time I went for a hike in the vicinity.”
For approximately two decades, the unique birds have shown up in the area. They’re classified as leucistic, rather than being albinistic, since they have colour in their eyes – blue.
Local nature photographer and author Mike Yip said there tends to be one or two white ravens a year in the area, born to a set of black crows who both have the recessive gene needed for their offspring to be leucistic.
“Most of them don’t seem to survive, they either disappear or they die,” said Yip. “I think some of them don’t survive the winter because their feathers aren’t as durable, so they won’t be as warm, and some of them end up having other physical problems… if they did survive, there would be a lot of them around.”
Yip has been keeping an eye on the birds for years. He wrote a column in 2018 about the birds – he said he dubbed the area the “White Raven Capital” because of the 20 straight years the rare bird has been seen.
“It was an extremely unusual phenomenon seldom seen in the whole world requiring both parents to possess recessive gene alleles. The white ravens attracted worldwide interest, but the string ended around 2013 possibly because the parents were beyond their breeding age,” he wrote. “Amazingly, five years later a newly fledged white raven has been produced by a new pair of common ravens on the Kroot family farm in Coombs.”