Pied raven

The pied raven (Corvus corax varius morpha leucophaeus) is an extinct colour morph of the North Atlantic subspecies of the common raven which was only found on the Faroe Islands and was last seen in 1902. It had large areas of white feathering, most frequently on the head, the wings and the belly and its beak was light brown. Apart from that, it looked like the black North Atlantic ravens (C. c. varius morpha typicus).



The pied raven received binomial names such as Corvus leucophaeus (by Vieillot, 1817) and Corvus leucomelas (by Wagler, 1827). It is currently referred to as Corvus corax varius morpha leucophaeus.


Replica pied raven specimen at the Føroya Náttúrugripasavn.

In modern Faroese, the bird is called hvítravnur ("white raven"), older name gorpur bringu hvíti ("white-chested corbie"). Normal individuals of the subspecies varius, which is found on Iceland and the Faroe Islands, already show a tendency towards more extensive white feather bases compared with the nominate subspecies. But only on the Faroes, a mutation in the melanin metabolism would become fixed in the population, causing some birds to have about half of their feathers entirely white. While albinotic specimens sometimes occur in bird populations, the pied raven seems not to have been based on such occasional "sports", but on a constantly or at least regularly present part of the local raven population.

Skarvanesi's 18 fuglar with the pied raven in the lower right corner

The first record of the pied raven seems to be in the pre-1500 kvæði Fuglakvæði eldra ("The elder ballad of birds") which mentions 40 local species, including the great auk. Later, the pied raven is mentioned in the reports of Lucas Debes (1673) and Jens Christian Svabo (1781/82). Carl Jul... ...read more

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