Are toxins causing birds to go Leucistic? Peter Pyle thinks this may be the case.

I just read a fascinating article by ornithologist Peter Pyle about a study he completed about leucism in birds, in particular Eared Grebes. Up until now it has been assumed by almost everyone that leucism was genetic in birds. However, Pyle hypothesizes that leucism is not genetic but affected by environmental factors, like poor nutrition, injury, metabolic dysfunction and particularly toxicity.

He noted in his studies that none of the birds had pink eyes, only red ones, meaning none were Albino (which is very rare in birds). He posed the question why there are so many white-plumaged Eared Grebes around. He also noted that birds such as Steller's Jays can be totally leucistic and then moult and then look completely like a normal pigmented Steller's Jay. He also saw other birds that had completely normal pigmented feathers and who then moulted and became a totally or partially leucistic bird. This proved to him that leucism is not solely hereditary but other environmental factors, like toxins may be at stake. He found that in areas with high toxicity in the water that there were more leucistic Eared Grebes.  It is sad that toxicity may potentially be causing so many birds to become leucistic and more prone to predation. I hope that with further research due to Pyle's work that further protection and aid is offered for these birds in areas of high toxicity. I also hope that more regulations are put in place to reduce as much toxicity as possible in our environment.

To read this whole fascinating article: "Why so many White Eared Grebes? Possible interactions among leucism, molt and pollutants" click HERE.


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