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Unusual sighting. partial albino vermillion flycatcher

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Old Saturday 22nd May 2004, 20:43   #1
aplomado2u
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Exclamation Unusual sighting. Leucistic vermillion flycatcher

Hello All:
A couple of days ago I posted a photo here of a male vermilion flycatcher displaying traits of partial albimism. I wanted to share the text and photo links with you.

RARITY: Vermilion flycatcher (male) leucistic.

On May 17th I went out on the "savannah" here in Tlacotalpan Veracruz to do some bird digiscoping. (digiscoping is a digital camera taking a photograph through a spotting scope)
As I was walking back home after three hours of photographing, I caught some flight movement that got my attention. I observed something small, white and red flying away from me, it settled into some low growth across a canal some 250 meters from where I was standing. I have spent countless hours birding here on the savannah and and this was something different, I was getting "birders rush" with the anticipation of a new find.
I started scanning the far side of the canal with the scope to see if I could spot my mystery bird. I stood perfectly still and scanned for a good ten minutes....yellow warbler, great-tailed grackle, white collared seedeater, northern jacana, ringed kingfisher, neotropic cormorant, forked-tailed flycatcher, great egret, bare-throated tiger heron, common tody-flycatcher.....no luck.
Suddenly I spot it, white wings and red body flying back across the canal toward me, it settled down in some thorn scrub about 75 meters from where I was standing. I move the scope to focus in...a male Vermilion flycatcher with pinkish/white mask,wings and emerging tail feathers, partial albino!
I slowly raise my digital Sony Mavica 250 CD camera to the eyepiece of my Nikon 80 spotting scope with the hopes that I can get at least one fairly clear picture. Good fortune was with me, over the next twenty minutes I was able to take around 100 photos of this unusal vermilion flycatcher. As typical of the vermilion flycatcher, it swooped from its thorny perch to catch an insect in flight looping to return to its original perch.
In the minutes that followed, time disappeared as the small vermilion flycatcher flew in closer to where I was standing, providing me with ever closer views. The following are images that I was able to capture;
VIEW_1
VIEW_2
VIEW_3
VIEW_4
VIEW_5
VIEW_6
VIEW_7
VIEW_8

Here are two photos that give you a comparison view of plumages of the vermilion flycatchers
VIEW_9
VIEW_10 Compare


I am quite excited to have been able to experience this observation and happy to share it with you. I have seen many hundreds of Vermilion flycatchers here in Veracruz over the past six years, but this is the first that I have ever seen one displaying these traits.

You may copy any of the images and share them for educational or non-commercial use. Please leave the text intact.

Good birding,
David McCauley
Tlacotalpan Veracruz MEXICO

Last edited by aplomado2u : Sunday 23rd May 2004 at 13:32. Reason: title error
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Old Saturday 22nd May 2004, 21:00   #2
Rasmus Boegh
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Very beautyful bird... and a great birding story aswell! It should be noted that it is leucistic, not an albino. Albino is when there is no melanin (or other pigments) at all, i.e. all white with pinkish legs and eyes.

Now I'll take the liberty of crossing my fingers that some of the local females like this unusual and interesting male. It would be amazing to find a population where this was more regular!
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Old Sunday 23rd May 2004, 00:19   #3
aplomado2u
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Thanks Rasmus for the clarification. Leucistic is a terminology that must learn more about.
As for keeping you fingers crossed.....this guy is so colorful and easy to spot in flight that it may be easy prey for raptors.
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Old Sunday 23rd May 2004, 02:55   #4
Dave B Smith
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What I found very interesting in this bird is how all the normally red feathers were still red and ALL the normally brownish feathers were white. When I think of a leucistic bird, I think of splotches of white, but in this case, the birds overall pattern is the same as a normal bird, just the brownish feathers completely replaced by white.
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Old Sunday 23rd May 2004, 03:45   #5
Rasmus Boegh
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Yes, I noticed the amazing colouration aswell. Apperently the only pigment that got effected was melanin. - And yes, I know it may be easy pickings for raptors, but I'll keep on crossing my fingers anyway! Mexico is on my "places I have to visit" list... so, who knows! Once again, thank you for sharing the photos and story. I very rarely see photos of birds I haven't seen before, so I'm thrilled everytime I do...

Perhaps somewhat inappropriately; the colours fit the Danish flag aswell

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Old Sunday 23rd May 2004, 17:08   #6
Michael Frankis
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave B Smith
What I found very interesting in this bird is how all the normally red feathers were still red and ALL the normally brownish feathers were white. When I think of a leucistic bird, I think of splotches of white, but in this case, the birds overall pattern is the same as a normal bird, just the brownish feathers completely replaced by white.
Hi Dave,

"splotches of white" = partial albino, not leucistic

fully leucistic is all of the plumage paler than normal, but not white; partially leucistic is only some of the plumage is affected.

Michael
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Old Sunday 23rd May 2004, 17:58   #7
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Michael, yours is the interpretation I was brought up on as well. Technically I suppose birds with all-white plumage but without pink eyes and legs are partial albinos, though it's not a particularly helpful way of describing them to others: I can imagine county recorders looking sternly at me over the tops of their glasses as they read my notes.
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Which having heard, I'll do the like for thee.

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Old Sunday 23rd May 2004, 19:16   #8
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Wow, what an amazing find and what a great opportunity to photograph such a cooperative bird! I will say, though, that it's such a shame that digital photography just can't seem to keep the details in the reds and yellows, isn't it? A dear friend who's a pro digi-photog has the same complaint, as well as saying she has similar problems with some shades of white. The feather details get all mushed together. But still great shots nonetheless. Just... WOW! Thanks for sharing all the photos with us, Dave.

I guess the definitions of "leucism" and "albinism" depend on where you're from. Here (NA), leucistic refers to feather pigments; albinistic refers to flesh/soft tissue pigments (per Collins; don't have the specific citation at hand), but there is still debate among the scientists as to causes, conditions and definitions. Most birders just say "partial albino" when seeing aberrant white feathers since it's a more familiar word.
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Old Monday 24th May 2004, 12:48   #9
Rasmus Boegh
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Frankis
"splotches of white" = partial albino, not leucistic

fully leucistic is all of the plumage paler than normal, but not white; partially leucistic is only some of the plumage is affected.
I took the liberty of asking a biology teacher from the University of Copenhagen. In short he says, that normally everything that is all white (incl the pink eyes & legs) is considered an albino, the rest that are "partially white" are usually considered leucistic.
Not saying that he couldn't be wrong, but...
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Old Monday 24th May 2004, 13:23   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rasmus Boegh
I took the liberty of asking a biology teacher from the University of Copenhagen. In short he says, that normally everything that is all white (incl the pink eyes & legs) is considered an albino, the rest that are "partially white" are usually considered leucistic.
Not saying that he couldn't be wrong, but...
I have noticed that there are these two views over this topic. Years ago I read from some ornithological lexicon a description matching with Rasmus' opinion. But then, leucistic would mean both an animal
-having white patches and
-being overall pale (but not white)
?
...anyway, it is completely hopeless try to convince birders that it isn't an albino. I have tried. That term is so common.
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Old Monday 24th May 2004, 13:42   #11
Rasmus Boegh
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karwin
I have noticed that there are these two views over this topic. Years ago I read from some ornithological lexicon a description matching with Rasmus' opinion. But then, leucistic would mean both an animal
-having white patches and
-being overall pale (but not white)
?
...anyway, it is completely hopeless try to convince birders that it isn't an albino. I have tried. That term is so common.
You can't really call it my opinion. That is what I has always been told, no guarantee that it's 100% correct.

Well, when it comes down to it, it is more of a scientific discussion than one among "normal people". Whatever the case is, call it a partial albino, leucistic, pale or whatever. Guess we all know what is ment, at very least when looking at the beautyful photos supplied in the beginning of this thread...
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Old Monday 24th May 2004, 14:40   #12
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While the conversation on the correct definitions is fascinating, the pictures have just blown me away. What a beautiful bird!

Thanks for sharing your experience and your photos, David. I'll probably never have the opportunity to see a true Vermillion Flycatcher, so this has been very special.
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