A rare white raven is struggling to survive after it was found starving to death and suffering from an infection on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.
The ailing bird couldn’t fly and had sores covering its feet. Thankfully, it was rescued and taken to North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre located in Errington, a town on the east coast of Vancouver Island, for medical care.
The juvenile raven with blue eyes has extremely rare and distinctive white plumage, a genetic anomoly that a small population of ravens located on the island share.
The white ravens, which are not albino, have been living in the area for over two decades.
Some years ago, photographer Mike Yip, who has been photographing the white ravens for over 14 years said, “As far as I can figure, the white ravens were the offspring of a pair of Common Ravens that have been producing at least one or two white offspring for over 15 years and are probably near the end of their breeding lives.”
The white raven is also considered a sacred animal in Native American folklore, which indicates that the white variance in the birds may have been around for much, much longer.
Derek Downes, the animal care supervisor at NIWRA, told Parksville Qualicum Beach News that just being able to see the white raven in person is an incredible thing. “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, white, leucistic ravens aren’t genetically sturdy which makes their survival more precarious.
Downes told CBC News that he believes the lack of melanin, which would naturally protect the bird from ultraviolet rays, might be a factor in white ravens’ poor health. The white ravens also seem to have more brittle feathers, which means they have difficulty staying insulated and surviving cold winters.
Whatever the reasons, not many white ravens survive to adulthood in the wild. But this nameless raven’s rescuers are pulling out all the stops to help it pull through.
“They have serious and unique health issues with a high mortality rate,” North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre (NIWRA) explained on social media. “We will do everything we can to give this special bird the best chance to survive.”
The bird is in intensive care and being closely monitored. It initially needed a feeding tube for the first days.
Despite its ill health, animal care technician Megan Buemann told news outlets that the bird is curious and inquisitive like most ravens.
Its rescuers provided an update recently, writing, “Good news update on the white raven! It has completed its course of antibiotics and its body condition is slowly starting to improve. As well, it has started to pick at food on its own.”
Eating on its own and its curiosity are positive signs. But the raven has more recovering to do before its rescuers consider it healthy and out of danger.
Ravens and birds are not the only animals NIWRA rescues. They recently took in a pair of orphaned bear cubs.