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  • Writer's pictureCrone

Bird life (excluding Bobbit)

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

Yes, I am still seeing the crows. And here's some video evidence. This was a surprise as they allowed me closer than usual. It was also a surprisingly complete community - I saw the Playgrounds and Flyings as well as the Divines, Driveways and Unbraves.

When I was visiting Animals in Need to do some filming (I am making videos as I did for Paws Rescue in Qatar), they had an aviary full of crows - and one raven. If I'd been on the ball, I would have taken the raven. Some had flown into windows, some had been injured by cats or cars and others had calcium deficiency, which made their feathers white and inhibited proper feather formation.

That got me thinking abut the Divines' kids, White Wing especially. She didn't fly superbly and maybe that was why she was more nervous. Len Howard said that one of her great tits, Jane, had very small feet - not great in fights with other great tits... as it were - and she was nervous.

Anyway, the birds in the aviary didn't just seem to have pale markings, they, a few of them, really did look to be in trouble.

There's a section on this video about the crows so you can see.

Why are crows lacking calcium? How could I add calcium to what I feed them?

I did a bit of research and found this on the excellent Corvid Isle site:

Leucism is a general term for the phenotype resulting from defects in pigment cell differentiation or migration. It is a condition in which there is a partial loss of pigmentation resulting in white, pale or patchy colouration of skin, hair, feathers, scales or cuticle, but not the eyes. Leucism can be caused by the reduction of all types of pigment, unlike albininism, which only affects the melanin production. Leucism is occasionally found in corvids, which can show a varying degree of white or pale feathers within an otherwise normal appearing plumage. These abnormal feathers are often more prone to wear and tear and make the bird potentially more conspicuous and prone for predation.

Besides primarily genetic causes, dietary deficiency caused by calcium or folic acid deficiency, or as found in Australian ravens due to a circovirus infection, can also result into this phenotype pattern. It has been also found that agricultural pesticides have a direct impact on reducing food and insect availability. Insects are an essential dietary requirement for almost all bird species, which rely on those for at least a substantial part of the nestling phase of their offspring. Pesticides lead directly and indirectly to the search for alternative and often suboptimal food substitutes and may also result into a progressive weakening of the immune system of adult and young birds, which increases mortality in general, but does more often lead to a varying degree of dietary deficiencies with subsequent plumage and skeletal aberrations.

Recognising the difference between inherited and acquired plumage aberrations is crucial, as acquired plumage problems can be corrected, whilst inherited causes cannot.

I think the Divine's kids had leucism, which could still make them less resilient, while the crows in the video, as Emma said, show calcium deficiency.

My second bird sighting came at the end of a trot.

It was great to see large numbers... but wait, these are NOT large numbers... It's just the largest number I see these days.

It's not quite like the extinction of the passenger pigeon (the skies could be black for.... however many minutes when a huge flock passed over and now none), but for sure these dudes won't create a murmuration like this.

This is truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

I have witnessed some murmurations.... not this big, but magical nonetheless.

As I was seeking out a murmuration video, I found this.

This is exceptional. It was produced, written and narrated by wildlife filmmaker Jeffery Boswall. This would have been made when I was a small child. Now starlings are on the UK red list for endangered species, though they are not endangered worldwide. It's an indictment of our lifestyle that we have made one of our most common birds rare.

I did mange to film one of the twenty or so who feed in my garden.

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16 oct 2023

Glad to know you saw the whole gang at the park and good to see the video. Interesting about calcium deficiency. I've seen crows with some white feathers on wings and tail (and indeed got to know such a crow who seemed in fine health) and assumed it was a genetic thing (leucism). And also interesting about the starlings. I like starlings 😀 ps Another good Animal in Need video. I like how it started with the majestic turkey!

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