Sunday, October 23, 2011

Nature Notes: Rare Robin

So there we were, eating dinner at the kitchen table, when dozens of robins descended on the back yard to hunt worms. Having rather poor vision, it took me a few minutes to figure this one out.

Me: "Either one of those birds is carrying around a slice of bread, or its head is stuck in something ... maybe a white plastic lid? Wait ... robins don't eat bread."

Grabbing the binoculars, I discovered the flash of white was actually the color of the bird:

By the time I ran upstairs, changed the camera lens, and got back downstairs my quarry had wandered out of range. Fearing I'd scare off the whole lot of them, I snapped a desperation shot through the slider door. When I opened the door they did scatter, so this is the best I got.

And off we go to Google robins with white heads, resulting in this excellent article from

The little guy has a condition called leucism, not the same as albinism: "The condition probably develops while the bird grows in its egg. The gene that controls skin-pigment cells called melanocytes turns on in some cases, but fails in others. The result is partially normal coloring with patches of white."

Only one bird in thousands is affected. It doesn't harm the bird's health, but it does put a serious crimp in his love life and makes him more conspicuous to predators.

Rare they may be, but luckier photographers have taken lots of much better pictures. You can check them out at Google Images.

Click here to visit Michelle's site and see more Nature Notes.


Carver said...

Wonderful shot of the robins and how interesting that you were able to find out about the white marking. I'll have to keep an eye out for that.

EG Wow said...

Thanks for explaining why the robin has a white head. I'm sure I have NEVER seen one with leucism.

Debbie said...

it looks like it was splashed with white paint!!

and i know all about desperation shots and "start shooting immediately, you never know how close you'll get" shots!!

this looks like a rare sighting!!

Rambling Woods said...

What a treat to see a rare bird like that..I would have been running around as you did..I think you got a great photo on the sly...Michelle

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