Updated: July 4, 2018
A mating pair of ravens that produces white offspring may be alive after all, after a rare white raven was spotted in the tiny community of Coombs on Vancouver Island on the weekend.
It is the first such sighting in four years.
A handful of white ravens were seen with regularity for years in the nearby town of Qualicum Beach and may have been the offspring of a single mating pair with a genetic anomaly.
“My first encounter with them was in 2007, but I had heard about them from local golfers before that,” said Mike Yip, an amateur photographer who has captured hundreds of images of white ravens over the years. “I last saw one in 2013, and someone spotted one in 2014.”
Ravens can survive at least 20 years in the wild and mate for life.
“There was a pair that seemed to produce one or two white offspring every year,” he said. “They nested in the same area for many years.”
When the white ravens disappeared, Yip assumed one or both of the parents — which were both black — had died.
“No one has seen one up close since 2014, so I thought they stopped reproducing,” said Yip, a retired math teacher who has published three volumes of birding photos.
The white raven spotted this summer is likely related to the similarly coloured birds from previous years, possibly a sibling.
White ravens do not appear to survive long in the wild, possibly as a result of other genetic defects.
Despite what internet memes suggest, parent ravens do not eat their white offspring, said Kaeli Swift, a doctoral candidate at the University of Washington.