Ravens are usually recognized for their most distinguishing feature: their jet-black plumage. But did you know that, in rare cases, sometimes ravens aren’t black but are actually born completely white?
It’s a mutation rarely seen, but rescuers at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in British Columbia, Canada have recently been caring for one of these unbelievable birds.
The non-profit wildlife sanctuary began caring for the unique raven last month. The raven arrived along with two black bear cubs, but it was the rarely-seen bird, with white plumage and blue eyes, that really caused a sensation:
Derek Downes, one of the animal care technicians caring for the raven, told the Parksville Qualicum Beach News that the bird was found on the ground, with injuries to its feet.
While the team has cared for traditional black ravens before, the white raven provided a rare sight. “They’re an extremely rare mutation,” Downes said, saying the bird was “dubbed the sacred white raven” in local areas.
“This is my first time handling one. I have seen photos and videos but never actually seen one up close and been able to actually be hands on in helping and trying to help this bird survive. It’s a really magical thing.”
Sadly, what makes the raven so unique and special also puts it at severe risk. According to the CBC, the raven’s appearance is due to having lower levels of melanin, known as leucism.
White ravens very rarely survive into adulthood. They have been found to have compromised immune systems. It’s not clear why, but it may be due to the fact that black plumage protects the birds from UV rays, Downes told the CBC.
“It sounds harsh but you have to understand that the wild is an excessively harsh place,” he said. “They are stunning to look at, but that comes at a cost ultimately.”
However, this particular white raven is getting the best care, and will hopefully survive longer than the leucistic ravens found in the wild.
The North island Wildlife Recovery Centre said last month that while the raven was not eating on its own, “its body condition is slowly improving.” “It is moving in the right direction,” they said.
“We’re really, really trying very hard with this one,” Downes told Parksville Qualicum Beach News. “We’ve learned in the past of what we can do to help it and we’re hoping with this one we’re going to have some success.”
“We ran a course of antibiotics on him and numerous vitamins and minerals to try to help boost his immune system because that seems to be what lacks with these white ravens… We’re really hoping for the best.”
In the most recent update on the bird’s health, the Recovery Centre expressed cautious optimism, stating that the raven is “making slow and steady progress in the right direction” and had begun eating on its own.
“Its physical body condition is very good now. As stress is very hard on birds with compromised immune systems we are being extra cautious and are keeping it from public viewing at this time. We will however, continue to keep you updated.”
We’re so glad this white raven is in good hands and is recovering well. Thank you to everyone at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre for caring for this unique, beautiful bird!