Lifestyle & Human Interest

Photographer Discovers Legend of White Ravens in West Coast Forest Is True


Dark birds have served as ominous portents from time immemorial. They show up everywhere in mythology and literature, and it’s hard to walk by a “murder” of crows without feeling like something is being planned.

A similar bird, the raven, appears in the Bible when Noah released one after the flood to determine if the earth was once more fit for habitation: It flew away and never came back.

Of course, part of what makes ravens so striking is their dark plumage. But as one amateur Canadian wildlife photographer has discovered, not every raven comes in black.

According to the Vancouver Sun, the town of Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, has known for some time that they have a special pair of birds near their community. Why? Because they regularly saw white ravens in the trees.

Though white ravens sound fantastical, sightings have cropped up all over the world. However, the unique birds are usually quite rare.

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This is not the case in Qualicum Beach where they’ve turned up regularly for the past two decades.

Why? People think that there’s a long-lived male and female pair of ravens nearby with a peculiar genetic defect.

“To produce the white raven, you have two black ravens mating and they both have to have the same recessive gene,” amateur photographer Mike Yip told CTV News VI.

Yip spotted his first white raven over a decade ago. As the years went on, though, their numbers dwindled.

“My first encounter with them was in 2007, but I had heard about them from local golfers before that,” he said.

Describing his first encounter to Reshareworthy, he said, “At first I thought they were chickens, but when I focused my camera, I saw that they were white ravens.

“I was so excited that I almost forgot to take some photos. … Suddenly a large white bird landed in a tree close to me. There was no mistaking the white raven.”

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“After a few distant record shots I tried to get closer, but the birds were quite wary and flew off to the nearby forest and joined their black siblings,” he added.

“There was a pair that seemed to produce one or two white offspring every year. They nested in the same area for many years.

“No one has seen one up close since 2014, so I thought they stopped reproducing.”

But in summer 2018, the owner of a farm near Coombs spotted another white raven.

After Yip explained just how rare it is to have a breeding pair of ravens with just the right genetic blueprint to create white ravens, he added, “it’s extremely rare, and so to have it happen twice would be extremely rare out here. So I don’t know if the original pair is still here or if this is a new pair.”

These white ravens are unique and not just because of their rarity.

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While you might be tempted to call these (and any all-white animal) an “albino,” that’s not really correct. Yip explained that they have another genetic disorder known as “leucism,” which gives them their trademark piercing blue eyes.

University of Washington doctoral candidate Kaeli Swift explained that these ravens’ particular abnormality only reduces their coloring rather than removing it entirely.

“You can also get all-white birds, but you can also get caramel-colored birds, cappuccino color, or crazy white stripes,” she said.

Whatever the reason for this unusual coloring, these white birds with crystal-blue eyes are certainly striking.

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
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