White ravens have long been a subject of myth and legend. One version of a legend from the indigenous tribes of the Northwest says that raven was originally white but was turned black from the smoke when it brought fire to man. In one Native American prophecy it is said that the white raven will return when humans become spiritual again. Most of us have probably never even heard of white ravens -- until now.
These amazing white ravens really do exist and one photographer (and retired teacher), Mike Yip, has discovered white ravens living in the area of Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.
He first found out about the birds from a golfer who claimed to have seen them at a golf course near Qualicum Beach. When Yip became interested in bird photography in 2004 he went in search of the elusive birds. The result was these incredible photographs. He shared his photos with his website and the local newspapers.
When he first tried shooting his photos he could only take a few distance shots. The birds were wary of him and would fly off to join the black ravens for safety in numbers. When he got a call from a friend with another sighting he went to the location with his camera and just waited.
Suddenly one of the white ravens landed in a tree nearby and things began to change. Yip was shaking with excitement and held his breath for the first few shots. Then he took a chance and moved closer. The bird showed no fear and Yip was able to get close and take pictures of the bird from all angles. After ten minutes he stopped and just watched to beautiful bird.
He thought that he was done for the day when he heard the rush of wings and the first bird was joined by another white raven and three black ones. They began to play on the sandy hillside and seemed to be completely oblivious to Yip's presence. He sat for more than an hour photographing the legendary birds.
While most people would think that the birds are albino, they actually have a very rare genetic disorder called leucism. This condition causes reduced pigmentation. Unlike albinism, it affects multiple types of pigment, not just melanin.
Yip noted that the white birds did not seem to thrive in the way the black ravens did. There has been some discussion about how the condition may make the birds weaker. However, the observation of white lions in the area of Timbavati in South Africa has shown that the white color makes the necessary stealth for hunting far more difficult. Both could be factors for the birds.
There is also speculation that the original mating pair of the white ravens observed by Yip that appeared to be creating additional white ravens were most likely siblings -- adding the genetic instability of offspring being produced by incest.
To check out more of Mike Yip's amazing bird photography go to Vancouver Island Birds.
Photos by Mike Yip, Images via Reshareworthy