It was nice to see this spring bird, a Leucistic American Robin in Waukesha today. It was on the south side of Waukesha near soccer fields. There were about 20 American Robins present in the area and all were actively feeding. Interestingly they would hold their head still near the ground and listen for worms, etc moving. Once they heard the sound of food they would poke the ground and usually come up with something. I was out birding and around noon in Waukesha area and I got a text from Dan W that he had the bird currently within views with Janet S. Just as I arrived the bird flew out of the area and we could not relocate the bird. After about 20 minutes I relocated the bird near a building lawn. The bird was first found by Jason S yesterday at the same location. A big thank you to both of them for getting the word out and the text today. I saw the report late yesterday afternoon and thought, I doubt an American Robin would spend the night here and be seen the next day, I was wrong. Images were taken on March 22, 2017.
What is Leucism? Leucism is an uncommon condition in birds. This condition is caused by a genetic mutation which prevents pigments, particularly melanin, from being deposited evenly in the bird’s feathers. Leucistic birds have melanin elsewhere in their bodies which is why they may have dark eyes, legs, and bills. However, their true color will be missing or greatly reduced due to the lack of proper pigmentation.
What is Albinism? Leucism is similar to albinism as in both cases the birds may be completely white. However, albinism is defined as a complete absence of melanin in an animal. Truly albino species will have pink eyes as the only color seen will be caused by blood vessels behind their eyes. They will also have pink bills, legs, and feet. Albinism is extremely rare in birds.
Notes: Leucistic birds are extremely uncommon for a number of reasons. They are not thought to live very long because their white feathers make it difficult for them to hide from predators. If they do stay alive, it is difficult for them to find a mate and successfully pass on their genetic mutation. Additionally, the melanin found in regular birds adds strength to the feathers. Leucistic birds lacking melanin have weaker feathers and thus have a more difficult time flying in severe weather. Last, the reflective properties of white feathers may be problematic for birds who rely on solar energy for heat.