White Wing: A Year In Review

Keeping track of White Wing has been a little trickier that usual this year.

In many ways she’s the easiest of all the crows to spot — one of the few I can tell from a long distance from just a silhouette …

White Wing on right with sticking out wing feather

The secondary clue is her location. For many years she and her mate were always to be found on a certain corner, and they would build their nest in that half block or so. The Wings have always been some of the most successful crow parents in the neighbourhood but last spring something went awry.

They live a few blocks from me, so I only see snippets of their lives when I walk the dog every day, but someone who also follows the Wings, and does live close by them, let me know in May 2022 that there had been a fierce crow fight. Mr Wing was left with battered feathers and both he and White Wing were hard to find for weeks afterwards. If they had fledglings, none survived the upheaval.

I have no way of being sure what happened, but I assume it was a territorial battle with another nesting crow family from further down the block. It’s a highly desirable street, extolled by crow real estate agents for its big shady trees and relatively low traffic volumes, and I guess the market just got too hot.

For a while I thought the Wings, in search of a quiet life, might have left the area entirely but in the fall I started seeing them a block north of their old corner. I’m happy they’ve decided to stay and are just testing out a new area slightly out of the reach of the tetchy neighbours. They’re now close to what used to be Mr. Pants land, and close neighbours to the Walkers.

Another impediment to identifying these two is the fact that White Wings distinctive feather is NOT a permanent feature. It falls out quite regularly, and not just during moulting season. At these times she looks just like any other crow. When I didn’t know where to look for her AND didn’t know whether she was with or without her feather, it was pretty much impossible to locate her.

Now that they seem to have semi-settled again I can guess it’s her by the way she walks or flies confidently up to me and, after waiting patiently, I start to see the beginning again of the white feather.

A nubbin of what will become that big distinctive feather in a couple of weeks.

I’m not sure why her feather is like this. I guess it’s something to do with the feather follicle that causes it to grow twisted every time.

Seeing her from below, you can see the gap that the sticking out feather leaves, but luckily it doesn’t seem to affect her flying ability at all. Maybe she thinks of it as an extra navigational feature.

Here’s White Wing this March morning, snagging a few peanuts and looking pretty confident — ready to defend the new turf as nesting season rolls around again.

White Wing was the fifth crow character profiled in City Crow Stories.

Next … Pearl and Echo.

White Wing on wires


See also: White Wing Crow (2020)

Other stories in the City Crow Stories: A Year Later series:



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2 thoughts on “White Wing: A Year In Review

  1. We have an incipient white wing here in Port Moody, on the edge of the Wild. I remember seeing another crow with this distinctive feathering near Knight St and Marine Drive on my way to work (since retired). This makes me think the white might be a genetic marker. I wonder if it has been observed in the big Burnaby rookery?

    • I wonder? I caught a glimpse of a crow near my local grocery store (which is also next to a fried chicken restaurant, who’s garbage cans are a VERY popular crow hang out) with multiple white feathers. I keep meaning to go back with my camera and just hang out for a while.

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