“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