Buddy and Robin Campbell © Courtesy of NIWRA
Nature has a way of producing natural marvels and keeping them hidden away for those who know what to look for. The white raven, highly revered and rare, is one such phenomenon, and it calls Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island, B.C., home.
Native legend says the white raven brought light to the world by freeing the sun, moon, and stars locked away by an evil being. Mythology says that Apollo sent a white raven to spy on his lover, Coronis. Shrouded in mystery and legend, these birds are known for their distinctive white feathers—common ravens are entirely black.
The white ravens at North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre (NIWRA) are not albino but leucistic, a genetic defect that affects the pigmentation of the cells and is marked by overall pale colouring in feathers and skin. Studies suggest these blue-eyed ravens do not live past their second year in the wild due to poor immune systems, making them all the more rare.
In recent years, NIWRA has embraced these beautiful creatures, nurturing them back to health against all odds. Animal care experts at NIWRA worked tirelessly to bring the first leucistic raven, named Blizzard, back to good health. It was emaciated, unable to fly and had infected wounds on its feet. After one year of care, Blizzard now resides in NIWRA’s public viewing area in a specialized enclosure with ample coverage from the sun.
Buddy, a younger white raven, arrived in the same condition the following year. Once again, NIWRA provided round-the-hour care and supervision to save its life. Buddy the bird rallied and his newfound strength can be seen “on the glove” by educational volunteer and trainer Robin Campbell. Buddy was named after Chief Buddy ReCalma of the Qualicum First Nations band—a tribute to his lifelong crusade working with Canadian Prime Ministers for justice and reconciliation.
The partnership between NIWRA and the Qualicum First Nations band runs deep, a lasting relationship fueled by a shared commitment to wildlife and cultural preservation. For many years, the band has supplied specially selected salmon for the rehabilitation of animals.
NIWRA has been in operation since 1985, with our mandate being to care for ill, injured and orphaned wildlife and to educate the public about nature and environmental issues. We admit over 700 animals a year with the hope of them returning to the wild. Nearly 95 per cent of admissions are due to human impact—directly or indirectly. Vehicle collisions, cat attacks, electrocutions and poisonings, without the help of NIWRA, are the end of the line for many of these animals. With an extensive educational program, complete with school visiting opportunities, countless online learning resources, and infographics detailing essential tips for supporting and saving animals in your area, we aim to help everyone become stewards of the Canadian wild.
Injured ravens are admitted to the centre regularly, but the white raven presents the staff with ramped-up care challenges due to their unique genetics. It is a day-to-day effort to keep them alive, with tube feedings and rounds of antibiotics, but the team successfully brought and kept these two incredibly rare birds in good health.
Today, Blizzard and Buddy live at NIWRA under our care, where the public can view their magnificence up close. The lifespan of a white raven could be two years, while black ravens can live up to 50 years in captivity. With deluxe accommodation, great health care and excellent dining, we hope our white ravens will be the lucky ones.
NIWRA, a non-profit organization, is situated in Errington, B.C. We are open to the public daily for viewing of non-releasable animals. Please visit our website at niwra.org to learn more about our programs, read stories about our animals, and learn how you can help care for wildlife.
Founded in 1985, the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association (NIWRA) is a non-profit, world-class rehabilitation facility situated on 8 acres of immaculately manicured grounds, caring for animals with all types of needs, including birds with broken wings, orphaned black bears, electrocuted eagles and much more!