A leucistic white raven remains on an ‘upward trajectory’ since arriving at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre (NIWRC) in Errington last spring.
As animal care supervisor Derek Downes said although Blizzard - named so for his snow-white feathers – is doing well, they still put much consideration into his stress levels and ongoing health risks related to his immune system.
“He was in a pretty bad way when he came in. But as he’s progressed over the winter, it’s pretty safe to say that he’s a non-releasable bird at this point,” said Downes.
As a juvenile raven, Blizzard was in rough shape when he was brought into the recovery centre in late May of 2021. Downes said he was found on the ground, unable to fly, with numerous infected wounds all over his body.
“He was basically at the point of emaciation. We had to tube-feed him, had to have him on multiple courses of antibiotics. And we finally ended up clearing up those infections,” he said.
After spending approximately seven months at NIWRC, Blizzard is able to fly but due to the leucism Downes believes the lack of melanin is detrimental to the bird’s overall feather integrity and has made them rather brittle.
In terms of permanent residency at the recovery centre, Downes said they’re uncertain at this time but will continue to monitor his progress and manage his stress levels.
“We’re still not 100 per cent sure what his situation is going to be because white ravens don’t typically do very good in the wild. And just the nature of him; he’s not a great flyer and he had a lot of health issues when he was younger – susceptibility to infection,” he said, adding that they’re also undecided if Blizzard will ever be in the viewable section of the centre.
“With animals like Blizzard, with underlying health issues, we just want to be really sure that they’re doing well before even entertaining the idea of putting them on public display. Being in public display can be a lot of stress, and so they have to be transitioned,” he said. “Stress is a trigger for immunity as well. If you’re under a lot of stress, you can be more susceptible to infections and things like that.”
For the time being, Blizzard will remain behind the scenes in his own private indoor and outdoor enclosures. Downes said he seems to favour prime cuts of red meat, deconstructing his cedar boughs to pass the time and solving toy puzzles meant for toddlers.