Shaun Benzai isn’t a birder, but one particular corvid frequenting his South Broadview neighbourhood has captured his attention.
Since about mid-June, Benzai, his family and neighbours have been visited by a white-feathered crow. It’s beak is pale pink/orange with some black, while its talons are pale pink/orange. Benzai said he hasn’t been close enough to determine the colour of the bird’s eyes.
“We noticed it for about a month or so ago and it’s been hanging around with some other crows,” said Benzai. “It almost seems like the other crows help it out a bit, like they’re sharing food with it and stuff.”
Benzai said he’d never seen a white-feathered crow before, and when an opportunity arose he captured a photo of the bird.
“The picture I took was with my daughter’s camera – she’s been trying to snap it,” said Benzai. “It usually lands in a stand of trees that’s fairly far away so she’s gotten a few pictures of it but it’s really small in the picture. It just happened last night when I was barbecuing, it flew right past me and landed in a tree right on the other side of our fence. Her camera was right there so I grabbed quickly and took a snap.”
Shuswap birder and Nature Watch columnist John G. Woods said in his more than 50 years of bird-watching he’s never seen an truly albino crow, though he has seen a crow with some white feathers.
Woods explained a true albino crow lacks the ability to synthesize the dark pigment called melanin. Without melanin, he said, the birds have all-white feathers, pink feet and pink-red eyes.
Partially white birds can produce melanin but lack the ability to distribute it universally into their feathers. These birds are said to be leucistic.
“Over many years of observing nature, I’ve only seen a few leucistic birds including a crow, several dark-eyed juncos and a spectacular great-horned owl,” said Woods. “I remember the owl as a great shock when a huge mostly white owl flushed from within a dense coniferous forest.
“Besides being a curiosity, leucistic and albino birds provide unique opportunities to observe a repetitively identifiable bird over time.”
While he has not yet taken up birdwatching as a hobby, Benzai has appreciated the opportunity to observe the white crow when it is near.
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