The Charm of Leucistic Birds

At the Rare Bird Alert I frequently get reports of Leucistic birds. I generally do not put these birds on the RBA because they are not actually rare species of birds. However, sometimes they are a species we don't typically see ever in a leucistic form. Juncos, Canada Geese, Chickadees (I had leucistic Chickadees nest in my yard this year) ,Towhees, Robins and Varied Thrushes are frequently seen in Leucistic forms but certain other birds turn heads when all white. Like the Albino Anna's Hummingbird that made headline news (see HERE ) and the local Yellow-rumped Warbler at Boundary Bay Carlo Giovanella found last year (see HERE) There was also a Leucistic Eurasian Collared Dove at 112th and Boundary Bay in 2015 (see HERE) and this year a Leucistic Crow at Boundary Bay Regional Park (see HERE). Other notable ones I've seen locally were Leucistic Steller's Jays, Black-headed Grosbeak and Red-winged Blackbirds.

This year two notable birds came my way, a Pine Siskin found by Clive Keen at his home in Prince George (see below):

Leucistic Pine Siskin in Prince George - Photo: Clive Keen

and this completely white Flycatcher found by Kurt Schneider near Shoreline Park in Port Moody.

Leucistic Flycatcher in Port Moody - Photo: Adam Dhalla

Leucism is different from Albinism and both make them more easy targets to predators. Leucism is the partial loss of pigmentation in a bird resulting in white, pale, or patchy coloration of the feathers but not the eyes. Unlike albinism, it is caused by a reduction in multiple types of pigment, not just melanin. Albinism is complete or partial absence of melanin pigment in the feather and eyes.

If anyone wants to see this awesome looking Leucistic Flycatcher, which we believe to be a Willow (although as of yet no one has heard it vocalize). Head to Port Moody and follow these directions: Park at Port moody rec center, take the trail labeled "Noons Creek hatchery". Go down this trail, past the hatchery building and down the trail where you go below the train bridge. Once you get to the paved walkway, ignore this and continue to the dirt path ahead. You should be crossing a wooden bridge on the other side. Walk along the boardwalk until you reach the other side (where it turns to dirt again) and walk straight until you hit the second boardwalk. Walk along this boardwalk (there are several small bridges) the area with 2 bridges (right before a sign talking about bears) on the left is the place people saw him. These directions are from the rec center, not rocky point park.

Good Luck.


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