Ghostly white churchyard ravens amaze experts

Tic, Tac and Toe have walked into the birding record books.

Tic, Tac and Toe have walked into the birding record books.

The raven is the blackest of birds, but these three youngsters of the species from a County Durham nest are all white.

And they aren't the first from the same Weardale churchyard.

Two years ago, a young white raven was found starving in the churchyard and was taken in by Sally Rowley, who runs the Weardale Animal Sanctuary in Stanhope.

The white raven was christened Branwen and settled down at the sanctuary. But she was killed in a freak storm last year.

Sally said: "I never thought I would see another white raven in my lifetime, but now we have three, and from the same churchyard. It's spooky."

Local people had observed that the young birds appeared to be in a starving state, and one, with feather damage, showed signs of having been attacked. "They were skin and bone and were just sitting and not moving," said Sally, who has taken them into the sanctuary and called them Tic, Tac and Toe.

"They just sat in a bush and you could pick them off like an apple, which is not normal behaviour for wild birds.

"They are starting to feed from me now and could stand a good chance of survival."

British Trust for Ornithology representative for Northumberland, Tom Cadwallender, said: "To have one white raven is extremely unusual, but for it to happen again in the same place and to have three white birds this time is unprecedented.

"It is too much of a coincidence and the same parent birds must be involved. It looks like something is amiss with their genes."

Mr Cadwallender said it was likely the white ravens would have been rejected by their own kind.

"They would not have been destined to survive," he said.

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