Tale of an albino crow

on 2nd June 2009

“Following up on Daisy O’Neill’s post, attached are photos taken in 1973 of another unusually-coloured crow that used to reside with me. It’s not because the photos are old and faded – but that crow is actually white. KC Tsang will vouch for it because he has met the bird. I have seen more than a dozen similar specimens. They are very long-lived and the one in the photo was around for over 16 years. It was already an adult when it came to me, and in its last year was showing all the signs of avian old age (incomplete moulting, heavy scaling on the legs) before being sent to Jurong Bird Park.

“Breeding attempts were unsuccessful since it was probably hand-raised, and it never paired successfully with any other crows. That is a problem when breeding birds with complex social systems such as crows and the large parrots. Babies raised by human beings tend to imprint on humans and very often do not develop the correct behaviourial response to interact with other birds of the same species.

“All the House Crows (Corvus splendens) in both Klang and Singapore are descended from a very small group.

“With such a small gene pool, mutations tend to get concentrated and odd colours appear every now and then.

“They were deliberately introduced from Sri Lanka around 1900 to help eat caterpillars in the Selangor coffee plantations.

“Unlike with other introduced species that either die out or proliferate to the point of becoming pests, the House Crow population in Singapore and Malaysia seems to be stable. Despite the frequent public complaints and officially-organised crow shooting campaigns, House Crows have not really spread in significant numbers beyond port areas. The Singapore population showed up around the Japanese occupation at the Tanjong Pagar docks.

“Albinism also occurs in the Large Billed Crow (C. macrorhynchus) which is native to Singapore. I had one example, but since it did not get on with my House Crow, it was donated to the Singapore Zoo.”

Lee Chiu San
28th May 2009

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

3 Responses

  1. There is an albino crow (White Crow) living near my house on the neem tree. It is there since last 6-7 months. I can see it every morning from 6.00 to 9.00 hrs. Always it is seen with 2-3 black crows. I could not see it alone at any time. My house address is: “Gautami” Parijat Nagar, Opp. Sainik Society, Vijay Nagar, Deolali-Camp, dist-Nashik, Maharashtra, India. My e-mail is: [email protected].

  2. Do agree that due to small gene pool, inbreeding is quite serious, while I was studying in PJ years ago, up to 2 odd crows are always roaming around, one of them was a partial leucistic, being whitish+blackish, and at some angle, they looked darker but the frontal parts, wings are dirtish white. Another individual is even more interesting, I called it the Vulturine Crow, because it technically had a complete bald neck area, the first time when I spot it on the ground at the roadside, I really almost thought it was a small Vulture or the sort!

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