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Why Is My Robin Half White?

Genetic conditions can affect feather pigmentation

If you see a bird with abnormal white feathers, like this American Robin, that bird may have a genetic condition called leucism. Leucistic birds, like all-white birds bred in captivity, have a genetic condition preventing pigments from reaching some — or sometimes all — of a bird’s feathers. Albino birds are distinctly different and are entirely white with pink skin and eyes. Albinos have trouble making melanin, the pigment in skin, feathers, and eyes.
Be sure to check out the photo blog with lots of leucistic birds!

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Why Is My Robin Half White?

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.
Sometimes a real puzzler of a bird turns up. It might look like a regular robin, but with frosty white splotches on its head or back.
[American Robin https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/83125241]
Or within a flock of blackbirds, a single bird jumps out because it has white instead of black wings.
[Red-winged Blackbird https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/191788]
What’s going on? The abnormal feathers on these birds are the result of a genetic condition called leucism (pronounced LUKE-ism), which prevents pigments from reaching some—or sometimes all—of a bird's feathers. The degree of leucism varies with a bird's genetic makeup. But the skin and eyes remain their normal pigment and color.
Albino birds are distinctly different. Albinos are entirely white with pink eyes and skin. Albinism has a different origin, too: problems with an enzyme called tyrosinase. (pron: ty-RAHS-in-ayse)  Problems with tyrosinase lead to problems making melanin, the pigment that gives skin, feathers, and eyes their color.
You are much more likely to see a leucistic bird than an albinistic one. Keep an eye out for birds that have white patches or washed-out plumage. It could be a bird of any species. Find photos of a few on our website: BirdNote Dot Org.
I’m Michael Stein.
                                                                               ###
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by Robert Bethel and Bob McGuire.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Managing Producer: Jason Saul
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
© 2018 Tune In to Nature.org  May 2018   Narrator: Michael Stein

ID#  leucism-01-2018-05-09     leucism-01

https://www.thespruce.com/bird-leucism-387342

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