Qualicum Beach, a beach and town on Vancouver Island British Columbia, has been home to rare white ravens for the past few years. This year, at least one new white raven has hatched, prompting birders to flock to the seaside paradise.
Ask anyone -- even an ornithologist -- what colour a raven is and the resounding answer is 'black.' White ravens, although occasionally seen, are so rare, they have not even been studied by ornithologists.
Vancouver Island's Qualicum Beach seems to be a special place, with white Ravens showing up every year for the past ten years reported the Vancouver Sun. This year there is only one new white raven that has been seen, but that hasn't stopped birders.
The Globe & Mail reported "... The birds are thought to be leucistic and not albino, the result of a genetic defect producing chicks lacking normal pigmentation."
The Times Colonist explained how it is thought the genetic defect works. "White ravens are the result of the mating of two common ravens with the same genetic defect. The same pair could produce many generations of white ravens, since common black ravens are monogamous and long-lived." One bird photographer, Mike Yip, claims some of the white ravens have blue eyes. According to the Times Colonist, "Leucism is the result of a reduction of all types of pigmentation while albinism is the reduction of just melanin."
Mike Yip has posted some excellent photographs of the white ravens, along with normally-coloured ravens and other beautiful birds found on Vancouver Island on his site, Vancouver Island Birds.
White ravens are very special to the Haida. One British Columbia village which had a white raven resident memorialized the bird after it died, preserving it and displaying it at the Port Clements museum.
Terry-Lynn Williams-Davidson explained the story of the white raven. "... In our oral traditions, Raven was Originally white. There’s days and days of stories of Raven as he ... haphazardly brings the world into existence as we know it. Through that process he steals the sun and the moon from their caretakers, flies through the smoke hole in the longhouse and brings light to the world. And when he flew through the smoke hole, he became black. Some people view the white raven as being Raven in his truest form, having to undergo challenges and sacrifices to bring about better good for people."
The Qualicum Beach area is home to over 200 species of birds through the summer season.
White Raven sightings generate a great deal of excitement, as described in a 2002 article from the Fairbanks Daily News.
Three fledglings, all white Ravens, were rescued recently in the United Kingdom and are said to be faring well, the Daily Mail reported Monday.
British Columbia is no stranger to white animals, being home to the Spirit Bear, or Kermode Bear.