Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) volunteers have been very busy during the past year building new aviaries and putting in native plant gardens and trails.
Their hard work is about to pay off, as the MARS Visitor Centre at 1331 Williams Beach Road in Merville finally reopens to the public in June, after an expended closure due to COVID restrictions.
People can book for a group of up to eight, Friday to Sunday between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
And there’s some exciting news to share about a couple of recent additions to the MARS flock.
“Along with our resident eagles, owls and hawk, we will be introducing our newest Ambassador birds, Nimpkish and Kokish, rescued from ‘Namgis First Nations territory near Port McNeil,” said Jane Sproull Thomson, in her monthly update. “These beautiful albino siblings are very active and great fun to watch.”
Often people refer to white or partially white birds as “albinos,” however, many of these birds are not albino but rather leucistic, a condition that causes a lack of dark pigments but allows for other colours, mainly reds and yellows. Genetics determines the amount of pigment loss.
True albinism is a much rarer genetic condition affecting all the pigments. Albino birds have no colour whatsoever in their feathers or in the skin. They often have pink or reddish eyes, legs, feet, and a pale bill; the result of blood vessels showing through, rather than pigmentation.
Leucistic and albino birds face special challenges in the wild which make them less likely to survive. The genetic problems of albino birds extend to poor eyesight, extreme sensitivity to light and poor depth of field vision.
“Learn more about leucism, albinism and another variation called morphism when you visit,” said Sproull Thomson. “The Visitor Centre has new picnic tables, trails and a viewing blind and the gift shop with unique wildlife-related items will be open, so come out and see what’s new! Please leave your pets at home as they upset our wildlife patients.”
Remember this is baby bird season with many fledglings on the ground, so please keep all pets under control at all times.
Donations of cash, food, medicine and bedding are accepted online at marswildliferescue.com, and MARS is always in need of volunteers to transport animals, guide visitors and landscape, build enclosures and care for our animals.