3 January 2022

Leucism

My best picture of our leucistic blackbird

Several days ago I announced that I had seen a lesser spotted woodpecker in our garden. I was 99% sure of this but my friends, I was wrong. It was not a lesser spotted woodpecker after all, it was in fact a leucistic blackbird. Please accept my sincere apologies for this stupid error. Previously, I had only seen it in a tree and not on the ground.

Until December 30th, I  knew nothing about leucism.  To be honest, I had never heard the word before. Leucism is a rare genetic condition that results in the loss of some pigmentation. It can affect a wide range of creatures but has been witnessed most often with regard to birds.

We all know what albinism is. It is a total absence of pigment. Albino creatures are pink-eyed and usually have poor eyesight. In the wild, they tend not to last for very long. This is down to absence of natural camouflage and their poor eyesight. They are also often rejected by their own species.

You might say that leucism is halfway between albinism and normality.

Shirley and I saw "our" leucistic blackbird pecking away at an apple as blackbirds like to do in the wintertime. It was too far away for me to photograph at first but later it came much closer to our house and I was able to snap it through the glass of our kitchen door. If I had opened the door for a clearer view, I am sure the bird would have scooted off straightaway.

I am not sure which is rarer - a lesser spotted woodpecker or a leucistic blackbird but I may have lost a penny and found a pound on this one.

We haven't seen that most unusual blackbird since we spotted it on December 30th but I hope it comes back. There are fresh apples on the lawn  waiting for it to feast upon.

Regular British blackbird

33 comments:

  1. There was one here a couple of years ago. His name was Whitey Wing.

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    1. What an original name for him! I wonder how you came up with that one.

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  2. Wow! That is so interesting. I wonder if this coloration is the same thing we call "piebald." Perhaps not but there are piebald birds and deer and horses and dogs. You did indeed perhaps lose a penny and find a pound.

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    1. I think you might be right about piebald/leucistic.

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  3. I've never heard of leucism either. Who knew? Now we do.

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    1. How did I ever live without this knowledge?

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  4. In one of my college lectures there was an albino student. It always creeped me out to see him coming and see no pigment in his eyes so they just appeared white except for the pupil. I never knew about the poor eyesight until reading this post but that explains why he always sat in the front row and had someone who typed his notes during the lectures.

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    1. It must be so hard being an albino human.

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  5. Probably the same word base as leukaemia

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    1. Leukemia comes from the Greek words for "white" (leukos) and "blood" (haima). There is certainly a connection.

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  6. Always good to learn something new, especially if you're a crossword fan like me and you want to know where words come from. Thank you for this one.
    Adele

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    1. You're welcome. There has never been a cross word between us!

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  7. Will you report your rare sighting to anyone official? (or might that bring unwanted birders to your home in droves?)

    I remember seeing white alligators (or maybe they were caimans) with blue eyes at the Ft. Worth Zoo many years ago.

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    1. I have reported the sighting to a national bird watching group. I never thought about them turning up! Silly me.

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  8. I used to have a leucistic blackbird visit he had more white than yours. I'm not sure if I ever saw another one. I certainlty can't recall another.

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    1. This is the first one I have ever seen. I hope he or she returns.

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  9. Perhaps some Blackbirds are fashionable and trend setters YP.

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    1. As The Kinks sang - A Dedicated Follower of Fashion.

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  10. Interesting, Mr. P. I can only identify a handful of birds - and even those I'm not always sure about.

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    1. Would you be able to identify an ostrich Jenny?

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  11. And here I was spouting off to all and sundry about a sighting of a lesser spotted woodpecker.

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    1. Again, please accept my humble apologies. I never meant to mislead an award-winning blogger!

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  12. The first time you see something leucistic it's quite surprising. People have a hard time identifying the species. So make no apologies. You sorted it out in the end. I'm sure that you taught many people about leucism.

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    1. But I can't teach an old birding dog new tricks can I?

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  13. In my days as a rock and roll disc jockey, a few millenia ago, I was known as Bruce on the Loose. After checking the pronunciation of leucism I wondered if I could have been accused of harboring it.

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    1. Bruce on the Loose may have had something to do with your relationships with young women.

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  14. I didn‘t know the term, but I know I have seen leucistic blackbirds around. I thought at first the white bit at the wing of one was some sort of rubbish stuck to it, but it was really the wing itself that was partly white. I have not seen one with so much white on its head.

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    1. I have never seen one before in my life.

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  15. Not a word I'd come across before, so I've learned something new already this year!
    Thanks to the feral cats in the neighbourhood, we don't get a great many birds in the garden, and most of those seem to be sparrows, or the occasional seagull. Unfortunately any food we left out for the birds attracted rats.

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    1. Rats need to eat too. Why are they so reviled?

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  16. Leucism is rare overall and yet quite a common 'tick' for those birders who like to have lists of what they've seen - a bit like the way that stamp collectors sometimes collect 'errors' I guess. Some affected birds are sort of speckled - some almost entirely white, but I think they don't have the pink eyes of those with albinism. Masny get preyed on as for some reason it affects their feather structure too and they are weaker flyers. But I go on too much as usual...

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  17. Interesting! You could probably check with the RSPB and see how rare this is, if you wanted to pursue it any further. Maybe you should shoot it and have it stuffed! (KIDDING)

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  18. I get those blackbirds on my front lawn and did not know they like apples. I do know they like taking a dip in the birdbath on the porch. This evening I shall throw out a couple of halved apples and sit by the door to watch.

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

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