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Old Thursday 20th March 2003, 14:09   #1
danysloan
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albino birds

or something like that. Anyone have any experience with them? I've seen three partials in my lifetime: House Finch, American Goldfinch, and Gray Catbird. All were pretty tame and allowed me to come up fairly close to them. I also had an extended discussion about British Politics with the Catbird. OK, not really. Anyway, are full albinos extremely rare? Has anyone seen any in the field?
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Old Friday 21st March 2003, 03:09   #2
Candice
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On the internet there are several photos of all kinds of albino birds (which are rare) and leucism in birds (which is fairly common). Albino birds have light pink legs, snow white feathers, and red/pink eyes, as well as pink/white bills. Leucism, which I'm sure you know is a genetic mutation in which the bird may have anywhere from one white feather to all white feathers, but colored eyes or legs or beak. Creaminos are birds that have the color of cinnamon in their back ground. This is a sex-linked trait. Greyinos have a grey factor in their back ground. These two traits are found in some species of caged birds.
Some albino or leucistic birds include:
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Eastern Bluebird
White-throated Sparrow
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Blue-winged Teal
Barnacle Geese
European Starlings
American Robin
Ring Ouzel
Red-winged Blackbird
American Crow
House Sparrow
Mourning Dove
Common Grackle
Spotted Towhee
Jackdaw
Budgerigar
Willet
Rock Dove
Eurasian Golden Plover
Ringnecked Duck
Peafowl
American Goldfinch
Black-capped Chickadee
Grey-headed Green Woodpecker
Cowbird
Bufflehead
Oriole (unknown species)

Over 300 different species of birds have ben documented as having albino or leucism or both.

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Old Friday 21st March 2003, 14:30   #3
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I've had many grackles here with white tail feathers. Never have seen a full albino bird although I hear it's quite common in American Robins.
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Old Friday 21st March 2003, 15:22   #4
Sal
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I have never seen a full albino but I have seen a very pale starling.
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Old Friday 21st March 2003, 18:40   #5
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there's a partial albino blackbird at sevenoaks wildfowl reserve - affectionately known (to me anyway) as Charlie....well he does appear to have a certain amount of a certain white substance over his head *sniffs*....anyway me and winkle have discussed the albino thing fairly regularly - and we agree that albinos are easy prey for predators - so a lot do not last very long in the wild.....incidentally has anyone seen the albino gorilla in barcelona zoo - now that really is a strange creature....
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Old Tuesday 25th March 2003, 22:30   #6
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I have seen a partially albino Eurasian Oystercatcher in Kishorn, Wester Ross, Scotland. I have a photo but as I do not know how to attach it to this reply cannot send it.
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Old Wednesday 26th March 2003, 01:26   #7
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I am with the people who have never seen a full albino. I have, however, seen a house finch with a white head in my yard for the last three years. Maybe partials are more common than we think.
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Old Wednesday 26th March 2003, 03:32   #8
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Hi Folks,
I'm back after a short spell and missed you all so much i just couldnt wait to get back on here.

I think most people who look at birds long enough come accross the odd Blackbird with a few white flights or Jackdaw with white on it somewhere, even a Rose Starling seems to pop up more the last couple of years. but a true Albino is very rear.
Last October 2002 i spotted a white Jackdaw with what must have been over a thousand jackdaws getting ready to roost at Newport Gwent. this is the first one i have seen and went back the following day just in case i could see it again but this time took a friend thinking we would never se it & he would be pulling my leg for the next ten years, but we both seen the bird and i put the sighting on the Gwent Orni Soc web site http://www.gwentbirds.org.uk/
i would like to hear from anyone who has seen a white Jackdaw & how the other birds reacted with it. mine seemed to be having a hard time being constantly picked on and i been to the same place on a number of occations but never seen it again.

all the best
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Old Tuesday 8th April 2003, 06:12   #9
Katy Penland
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Leucistic pinyon jay

This jay came into our yard with "his" flock of 40-45 every day for several months. Sorry about the terrible contrast; the underside was also predominantly white. The red sandstone he's using to hammer open sunflower seeds was "his" -- and he'd chase away others who'd jump on while he was off getting another seed.

The only thing different I noticed about the behavior of this bird is that he didn't seem to like other birds in close proximity to him. Pinyons are very much in each others' "bubble" (personal space), but this guy liked (or was shunned into) relative isolation within the flock when it was feeding. When Steller's or scrub jays would enter the yard, the pinyons were unfazed by their presence, but the Steller's and scrubs were nervous if the pinyons would get too close.

Katy
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Old Tuesday 8th April 2003, 19:16   #10
Katy Penland
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Hi, Malky,

Funny you should ask! When I originally posted this photo to our Northern Arizona bird forum, I'd called it "albinistic." Then a bird friend from southern California kindly sent me an article written by Dr. Charles T. Collins for their Audubon chapter wherein he describes what causes the variations in colors of feathers and soft tissues, leading to conditions called albinism, leucism, carotenism, melanism, and schizochroism, or even combinations of any of these.

While this involved more "isms" than I was familiar with, one of his sentences was instructive: "Where there is a loss of pigmentation in the feathers but not the soft parts it is considered leucism." As "my" bird is otherwise colored normally except for the extensive white patches of feathers, it satisfied the definition of "leucistic." However, I have to confess I was unwilling to quit calling this bird Albie O'Pinyon just because he turned out to be a "Luke" instead. <g>

If I can find a scanner, I'll be glad to upload this article. It was written in response to a predominantly white (but not albino) willet found at a local salt water marsh in the Los Angeles area that had triggered a lot of discussion regarding exactly how to describe this bird.

Katy
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Old Tuesday 8th April 2003, 20:14   #11
Katy Penland
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Color variations defined

Since the article was so short, decided to just type it up! I don't know whether the LA Audubon newsletters are online, but I'm sure they wouldn't mind my sharing this with the Forum. Obviously, any typos found are mine. Enjoy!

Katy



Bolsa Chica's White Willet
By Charles T. Collins
"Western Tanager"
(Los Angeles Audubon Society newsletter)
November/December 2002, Vol. 69, No. 1

One of the most attractive qualities of birds is their bright and varied coloration. I doubt that there would be as many birdwatchers if birds were all drab "little brown jobs." The colorful appearance of birds is achieved by a variety of pigments being deposited in the skin and growing feathers.

The two commonest types of pigments are the melanins and carotenoids. The melanins include eumelanin which is responsible for the darker black and gray colors, while phaeomelanin is responsible for some of the lighter browns and tans and erythromelanin the richer chestnut-red colors. Melanins are synthesized by the birds and deposited as granules in the skin and feathers.

The carotenoid pigments include carotenes (red-orange), xanthophylls (yellow and orange), and carotenoids acids (reds). They are softer, non-granular, compounds which give birds their many shades of pink, red, orange and yellow. They produce some of the most intense colors such as those found in Scarlet Ibises and tropical tanagers and also the faint rosy blushes of the breeding season Elegant Terns and Ross's Gulls. These pigments for the most part cannot be synthesized by birds and must be obtained from plant or animal material in their diet and then deposited, often chemically unaltered, in feathers and soft parts.

In addition to pigment colors the physical phenomenon of light scattering is responsible for blue in feathers and skin as well as white or albinistic feathers. The highly metallic iridescent colors of many hummingbirds are caused by interference phenomena, as is also true in an oil film on water, but they also depend, in part, on underlaying melanin pigment layers.

Many of us have at one time or another seen a bird with abnormal coloration, particularly albino or partially albino birds. However, it is often more complex than a simple presence or absence of pigments. In June and July 2002 what appeared to be a white or largely white Willet was seen and photographed at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Analysis of this bird is a good starting point for categorizing the several types of plumage abnormalities which occur in birds. This bird, as shown in the accompanying photos, was not a true albino, which requires a complete loss of pigment in both feathers and soft parts. Where there is a loss of pigmentation in the feathers but not the soft parts it is considered leucism. The spectacular photo of a white hummingbird with dark eyes and bill featured in the July-August 1994 "Western Tanager" would thus be a prime example of complete leucism. The term partial leucism would be used when there is only a partial to nearly complete loss of pigments from the plumage with white feathers occurring symmetrically or non-symmetrically over various parts of the body. Most people would simply call these partial albinos.

Less commonly encountered is melanic leucism where only the melanic pigments are lost and carotenoid pigments remain. An example of this is a specimen of a nearly all white Yellow-headed Blackbird in the Cal State University, Long Beach collection which lacks all of the black coloration but retains some of the yellow in the head region. It would certainly have been a spectacular bird to see in the field! Carotenoid leucism would be the opposite, where the carotenoid pigments are lacking but the melanins remain. A Yellow-rumped Warbler lacking the yellow throat, pectoral spots and rump but otherwise normally colored would be an example of this. Both of these cases refer to situations where these two types of pigments occur in different parts of the plumage.

Yet another category of abnormalities is called schizochroism. It involves situations where one pigment overlays another in the same feather. Melanic schizochroism occurs when there is a loss of the phaeomelanins (the browns) resulting in a more uniformly gray bird, or the loss of the eumelanins (the dark browns or blacks) resulting in an all tan or "fawn" colored bird. Melano-carotenoid schizochroism would describe the loss of one or the other of these two types of pigments where they normally are present in the same area. I have seen a specimen of a Red-winged Blackbird where the absence of some of the black pigment showed the red (which should be confined to the epaulets) to be much more widespread but normally masked in other areas by the denser melanins.

Carotenism describes several abnormalities involving the carotenoid pigments. These include changes in the distribution or amount of these pigments present as well as the shift from red to yellow often seen in our local House Finches. Extreme cases of all yellow birds, probably due to melano-carotenoid schizochroism, is found in some cage birds, particularly parrots, which are referred to as 'leutinos' by aviculturists.

Melanism is due to an excess of the eumelanins resulting in abnormally dark plumage as is occasionally seen in 'dark morph' Red-tailed Hawks and jaegers. An extreme case of this would be an all black bird which normally would have shown other colors as well.

Now, back to the white Willet of Bolsa Chica. The presence of some melanin pigments on the tip of the bill and in the wing feathers (partially delimiting the characteristic wing stripe of Willets) rules out this being a true albino. Partial leucism would probably adequately describe the condition in this bird. However, examination of the color photographs of this bird show some yellowish color to the base of the bill and upper legs, which would normally be obscured by overlaying melanin pigments. Thus this bird also exhibits a degree of melano-carotenoid schizochroism as well.

All of these different categories of plumage abnormalities may seem like splitting hairs (splitting feathers?); we could just continue to call them partial albinos or dark phase birds and be done with it. However, being aware of the actual basis for the diverse colors and color patterns, as well as the several kinds of abnormalities we may encounter, should serve to sharpen our observational skills and our overall enjoyment of birds and birding.

In writing this I have relied heavily on the chapter on 'Genetics' by P.A. Buckley in the book 'Diseases of Cage and Aviary Birds' by M.L. Petrak. I am indebted to Mike Bowles for the use of his superb photos of Bolsa Chica's white Willet which prompted this whole article.
********
Dr. Collins is an emeritus professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at California State University, Long Beach, where he continues to teach classes in Ornithology and Behavioral Ecology. His primary research interests are the biology of swifts, Island Scrub Jays and coastal breeding terns and skimmers.

Last edited by Katy Penland : Tuesday 8th April 2003 at 20:23.
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Old Tuesday 8th April 2003, 21:36   #12
Katy Penland
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Light scattering on skin

You're most welcome. (I do type about 130 wpm, so it was truly no trouble.)

The one thing that tripped me up in the article was the mention of blue skin color being attributable to light scattering phenomena as well as to pigmentation (assuming I'm reading it correctly). I would love to know in which species and what properties skin would have that would make this possible.

Like you, I look forward to learning more about this!

Katy
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Old Tuesday 8th April 2003, 21:55   #13
Katy Penland
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Would that then make you full o' m'laky? <g>

Katy
(who really knows better than to make presumptions about such witticisms on an international board but who couldn't resist in this case!) <very big grin>
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Old Tuesday 8th April 2003, 23:20   #14
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interesting thread- I've sighted many leucistic birds over the years but only one true albino- a housefinch.
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Old Thursday 17th April 2003, 19:50   #15
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For anybody who is interested there is a Dunnock with a white cap at the Little Chef at Alcester, Warwickshire. If you sit at the window by the yellow bush (in the smokers section, although I don't) I saw it today as it fed beneath the window. Good opportunity for a digi photo. Unfortunately I don't have a digi camera yet.
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Old Monday 28th April 2003, 22:37   #16
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Further to the above birds this year at Upton Warren we had a white thrush. In the end it was decided it was an albino Redwing as it was always with Redwings.
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Old Monday 28th April 2003, 23:15   #17
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For a second, I read that as 'White's Thrush' !

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Old Tuesday 29th April 2003, 14:12   #18
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We used to have an albino Starling around here and currently have a partially-albino Carrion Crow (white wing patches). Other than that I can't think of any others that I have seen. Not that common methinks!
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Old Tuesday 29th April 2003, 17:20   #19
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Quote:
Originally posted by T0ny
For a second, I read that as 'White's Thrush' !

Tony

If only!
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Old Friday 18th July 2003, 04:42   #20
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I've resurrected one of these old 'albino' threads in order to add a species to Candice's list fortuitously beginning this particular thread, just in case anyone is collecting such a list.

To wit, the Japan TV News last night showed some good video footage (which I was too slow-witted to record) of a newly-fledged albino Barn Swallow in Hiroshima. All white plumage, gape was pink, couldn't see the eye color. Shots of it in the nest with three normal siblings, and flying around, looking like an elegant white butterfly.
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Old Wednesday 5th May 2004, 08:18   #21
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I wanted to bump this thread since it talks about Albinistic & Leucistic birds (for those who might be interested as I am). ((thanks Katy! ))

Here's a photo of a Baltimore Oriole female that's been in my yard the last couple of weeks that has leucistic markings on top of her head...at least that's what I think it is...anyone else concur?
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