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White ravens spotted in Qualicum Beach

One of Qualicum Beach
One of Qualicum Beach's rare white ravens is pictures here casually hanging out at the Qualicum Beach ball fields.
— image credit: PHOT SUBMITTE BY DAWN CHRISTENSEN

Dawn Christensen, who was quoted in national media four years ago when she saw Qualicum Beach's rare white ravens, was treated to another good view last week.

On June 25 she was in the ball fields behind the civic centre when she saw one hanging out casually with other birds, not worried about her approach.

"At first I just thought it was a seagull or something," she said, but it was clear once she saw it move. She said "it was really beautiful to see it flying."

The white birds are believed to number in the single digits locally, born from a single pair of black common ravens with a rare genetic defect. They are considered leucistic, with reduced pigmentation, rather than albino, since they have some colour in their eyes.

Common ravens are monogamous and can live for more than 30 years, but North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre assistant manager Julie Mackey said the white birds don't tend to live as long or breed as well as their black cousins.

She said there are a few tiny populations scattered around the mid-Island that may all be related, with sightings in Port Alberni, Comox and Tofino. Sightings elsewhere around the world are extremely rare.

The local birds have been the subject of several books and news and magazine reports across the country.

There are many white raven legends, especially among First Nations, ranging from them being the bringers of light, to being tricksters, to foretelling the end of the world.

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