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This is No Ordinary Junco

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Leucistic Junco 1I thought for sure I was looking at a new bird species, another one to add to my Life List!  But as I thumbed through my field guides and checked out photos online, I couldn’t identify this one. It was the size of a junco. It had the white stripes on its tail feathers, like a junco. And it foraged for food on the ground just like all the other juncos. After closer examination, I determined that it was indeed a junco, just no ordinary junco.

Leucistic Junco 2Leucistic birds are normal bird species that are missing some of the pigment in their feathers. Unlike albino birds, which have all or partially white plumage, leucistic birds have extra-pale plumage. While related to albinism, Leucism is the condition of the normal pigmentation being diluted rather than lacking in pigmentation altogether.  Birds with this condition have plumage that is lighter than normal, but not pure white.

Yes, this was my bird! It looked like a common junco everywhere, except the head had extra-pale plumage, making it almost unrecognizable.

A genetic mutation that prevents pigment, Leucism is especially noticeable on birds with black or brown feathers, as in the case of this junco. Notice the bleached splotches on this one’s face.

Unfortunately, leucistic birds may have a more difficult time in the wild as they may be more visible to predators and less attractive to potential mates. (Awe.)

Leucism is rare in birds so I considered this a special find, and while I worried for her upon reading about her potential challenges, I take great joy in knowing that she thinks she’s just fine. She’s been happily flitting about in my backyard for several weeks now and doesn’t seem to be bothered by her condition. Seems like she doesn’t even notice. And, I’m certainly not going to tell her.

Here, Leucy! You’ll like these sunflower seeds. Come n’ get em!   (Yep, I named her Leucy).


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