I say white, but not quite, really rare no, but very unusual I declare… and also I say, expect the unexpected when bird watching. So what is this bird and how is it that it is almost completely white?
What a cool cucumber you are! After all, your color signals, “Here I am – not what I am.” It took a bit to positively identify you, but forwarding a few photos to fellow blogger, Janet from The Queen of Seaford help put you in the column, ‘found and identified’ as we jointly searched you out.
Did you know white sparrows signal good luck, so I have read? I hope this little cutie is white enough with that pink beak, peachy legs and touch of gold. I could use a bit of luck, but couldn’t we all though?
Superstition aside, the luck is in finding one. Leucistic birds that are completely white are very rare. Dark eyes keep her from being an albino. Most know albinism, but have never heard of leucism. “Leucism comes in two main varieties — paleness, an equal reduction of melanin in all feathers; and pied, an absence of melanin in some feathers creating white patches.” (Cornell)
Janet has explained the findings more fully, listed the particulars on this bird and also clarified what caused the coloration.
It all started as I had asked her if she could identify a bird I was having difficulty identifying. I sent her a few images to help her make an ID, one of which is below. This was taken recently.
I felt since she put a lot of time into trying to identify this bird, that she should be the one to post the images of the golden sparrow, also leucistic, on her site and explain the findings. She will have a very well searched post on the web since I am sure others have gone through the same time-consuming experience trying to identify such an unusual character.
What I found out from my research was most people run into this problem because the birds are not in any bird ID books having such uncustomary coloration. They look like birds we all know, but the odd coloration keeps casual researchers in the dark, even on common birds we see daily. There are other ways birds can be visually and genetically different. Here is another site by Cornell on Unusual Birds.
I was certain at first it was a sparrow until no golden ones could be found in a Google search. Janet added more keywords and had luck finding a bird very similar in appearance, but still not identifying why the sparrow was of such coloration.
So the search deepened and led in a most surprising and interesting direction. Things fell into place with the help of a few experts.
I contacted both Cornell and the regional Audubon Society. Naturalist, Mark Carra phoned me from the Buffalo Audubon Society on the golden bird images I forwarded to him. I sent the white sparrow images to Cornell. Oddly, Mark was very familiar with seeing leucism in various bird species, but did not offer much more information than that which is printed on Cornell’s site.
The white sparrow is mother to at least two young sparrows that I am sure. I suspect she is also the mother of the much cuter golden-colored sparrow I sent to Janet and you see in this post. I do regret not getting better photos of the white bird, but I was not around for much of the summer.
Mark Carra was surprised that I had a mated pair here in Niagara Falls. They often don’t reach breeding age or have luck attracting a mate. I never saw the male that I am aware.
The white sparrow has one regular house sparrow offspring which she is feeding above, and one you will see below that is gray-white. Dingy white would be a more appropriate description, but hey, no baby is ugly right? No matter how scraggly looking.
Leucism is an unusual trait, but not necessarily rare. The degree of unusual is determined by the completeness of white feathers.
Here is what the FeederWatch representative said about my photos,”Thank you for sending photos to Project FeederWatch. We will add them to the Lab’s collection. We may use your images on our website or in our publications.” I have yet to send the golden sparrow to FeederWatch, but will for bird count days, since it is still feeding in my yard.
Mom has a bit of the golden color too, but not as pronounced as the other bird. Plus her tail and wing tips are much whiter.
This is Dingy. He has a grayish brown appearance, more akin to a regular sparrow coloration. Plus his feathers are not smooth like the other pale birds. He looks disheveled.
Our golden Sparrow was seen February 9, 2013. I may do a post on this bird, not so much to add to Janet’s post, just because I have so many images of this bird. It is a resident in my yard, living in the tall Juniper. To see more of this bird today, and also get information on its coloration, see Janet’s post.
I have no clue how many offspring mom had, but I am assuming the golden-colored one I sent for ID is also part of the brood. I just know, there were some odd birds in my backyard.