Rare albino rook rescued on Bute

Jeremy Corvid in a cage at the Bute and Cowal Vets practice in Rothesay yesterday.
Jeremy Corvid in a cage at the Bute and Cowal Vets practice in Rothesay yesterday.

A Bute resident saved a rare albino rook near his property last weekend.

Mark Markov, who owns Annislea near Ardbeg, noticed a commotion in the woodland across from his house on Sunday evening, and when he investigated he found a bird being attacked by a group of rooks.

He told the Buteman: “I looked out the window and saw this white shape being mobbed by the other birds.

“At first I just thought it was a seagull or perhaps something rarer, like an ibis.

“But then I went out to break it up and realised it was something else entirely.”

Mark noticed the bird’s white feathers, pink eyes and pale beak, before using a laundry basket to carry the injured animal inside and calling local vet Duncan MacIntyre, of Bute and Cowal Vets.

Duncan then took the bird to the vet’s practice on Argyle Street, but not before Mark had christened it ‘Jeremy Corvid’ because of its white colouration and the scientific name for the crow family, Corvidae.

Duncan said: “I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

“Albinism can happen in almost any species, but the albino animals tend to be weak in a lot of ways because they have recessive genes.

“That means they often don’t survive very long, making it quite rare that they are actually spotted.

“It’s hard to tell exactly if this one is a rook or a carrion crow, but I would say I’m about 90% sure it’s a rook.

“There is a big colony of rooks near the area it was found in, so I suspect it hadn’t gone far from home.”

The bird was transported off the island on Monday evening to the Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue centre in North Ayrshire, which cares for sick, injured and orphaned animals across Scotland.

Duncan said: “I think the plan is for the bird to be rehabilitated and get acclimatised to flying around again in a large area, hopefully so one day it can be released and survive on its own.

“It may find it difficult because of its weakness, but you never know.”

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ website describes how albino birds get their colouration: “As it is a recessive characteristic, it only shows up when a bird inherits the albino gene from both parents.

“True albinos lack colouring in all feathers and soft parts. Their feathers are white and bill, legs and eyes are pink.

“They are normally less robust, and often have deficient eyesight and hearing.”