Arkansas Wildlife Blog and Gallery
Buffalo National River and NW Arkansas
One of the real oddities of Boxley Valley are the white-winged crows. These are a genetic anomaly and so far as I can tell they are confined to a pretty small area of NW Arkansas, and within that, they are concentrated only in certain areas.
These are one of my shooting objectives for this year. Any kind of crow is pretty hard to get close to, so shooting crows is a challenge anyway. Add to that a very rare crow, and you have yourself a trophy shoot.
These crows are also called "piebald" crows. Crow hunters consider these birds trophies, one seldom seen in a shooters lifetime.
This trait is also called "leucistic". Basically these animals are partial albinos, so sometimes this is called "partial albinism". It has to do with a deficiency in melanin. (I think luecistic in latin would mean "whitish".) This is the tower of babble in which we live.
According to Mary Ann Hicks at the Ponca Elk Education Center the white-wing crow molt every year. Earlier in the year they tend to be whiter. I have observed them after the molt with slate gray feathers where they were once white. It is noticeable if you are a photographer and observant of color.
I have seen white-winged crows with nearly totally white wings and this is the bird I am going for. I did finally get my first "piebald crow" picture yesterday, August 16th. See picture below. My picture is about as good a live leucistic crow picture as I could find on the Internet, but I admit I didn't really grind on it. I want a bird with more white on the wings, I have seen them a few times.
Shameless Self-Promotion Department
My framed wildlife prints are on display and for sale at a number of locations:
Boardwalk Cafe/Arkansas House
Cliff House Inn
Point of View Restaurant
Jasper Chamber Gift Shop
Lost Valley Canoe Store
Villines Store (Boxley Valley)
Low Gap Store
Compton One Stop
Uncommon Grounds Coffee Shop
Where to Look:
If you want to get a decent white-winged crow shot, I think your best bet is along or near the Buffalo River.
My hunch around here is that they are more likely with fish crows, a variation of crow preferring watery environments. This is the only place I have seen them around here.
My choices to get a picture are the Ponca low water bridge, and along the creek behind the Elk Education Center in Ponca. They seem to go there often.
Until I got this picture, my best photo of one looked mostly like sensor dust. I find crows pretty timid and a difficult get.
I would not sit in the open. What you are hoping for is a "fly in", and that takes patience.
The White-Winged Crows of Boxley Valley
White-winged crow, or leucistic crow, or piebald crow. This was taken at the Ponca low water bridge.
Note the kind of slate gray on the remainder of the wing, in contrast to the black of the head. The white feathers on the edge of the wing at the ID of the trait. This bird might show more white earlier in the season. Sometimes they molt from white to gray according to Mary Ann Hicks.
This is a good bird to seek after the peak elk shooting in the morning. Often after the elk are done around 8 or so, I will go to the Ponca low water bridge to prospect for great blue herons, white-winged crows, and whatever else the day offers.
Shooting Tip: Crows are very timid. I shot this one out a car window sitting on the low water bridge. The moment I got out, he was gone. For some reason they are much less afraid of cars.
This shot was taken on 9/17/09 after the original entry was written. This specimen was shot behind the Ponca Elk Education Center. The white winged crows fly along the creek bordering the back of the center on and off all day long.
Today was the mother lode of white winged crow shots. At one time I had 3 of them on the same limb behind the Center. One even had a distinctive blaze on his face.
Last year there was only one great specimen of white-winged crow, but this year there are at least 3. Crows are very timid. To get a decent shot you need to be concealed under a tree or behind a bush or they won't land.
I would still like to improve on this shot. The light today was all diffuse from a light morning fog. With a virtually all black subject, that kind of light can wipe out any detail in the blacks. They will tend to block up and go to all black with no texture.
This is not the same bird as above.