Saturday, December 25, 2010

Red-tailed Hawk in white

Russ Reynolds, of Lima in western Ohio, found this stunning leucistic Red-tailed Hawk hanging out near home, and was good enough to send along a series of photos. As we can see, its strikingly different appearance hasn't led to a total shunning by the rest of the red-tail community. Red-tailed Hawk male and females look essentially the same, other than in the size department: females can be visibly larger. However, I can't tell who is bigger than who in this shot.

You can view another strikingly leucistic bird RIGHT HERE, and I discuss leucism a bit more in that post.

Leucism is a rare genetic condition that causes animals to be, essentially, bleached out. Beasts that are leucistic are often mislabeled as albinos, or in the case of raptors such as Russ's Red-tail in this blog, misidentified as white birds such as Snowy Owls.

Leucism is a genetic numbers game - the more frequent the animal, the more likely it'll show up in the population. And the more conspicuous the species, the more likely that one of us will notice it. That's why leucistic Red-tailed Hawks and American Robins are among the top leucistic species that are reported.

Animals such as Russ's Red-tailed Hawk are often referred to as "piebald", and show patchy coloration. Sometimes, plumage or fur as the case may be, can appear stark white while other areas may be black. On this bird, some of the normal rufous tones of the tail feathers can be seen in this shot.

Leucistic birds -and mammals such as White-tailed Deer - can live a long time, and bcome local celebrities. There was a strongly leucistic Turkey Vulture that returned to the Egypt Valley Wildlife Area and vicinity in eastern Ohio for many years, up into the early 1990's.

Here's hoping that Russ's bird lives long and prospers. Thanks to Russ for sharing his find and photos!


a mission said...

I found a bird that closely resembled this bird south of Olympia, Washington in 1997. It remained in the area for years and was really striking to look at. What a gorgeous aberration of nature!!! We had a leucistic Ring-billed Gull in RI a few years back that gave everybody a run for their money on ID. It was pretty fun!!

The Falconer's Wife said...

Hi, I just came across your blog. The photos of the Red-tailed Hawk are fabulous - thanks for sharing them!

Jim McCormac said...

Yes, nothing like an aberrant gull to throw everyone for a loop!

Glad you found my blog, TFW, and hope you stop back!

flux biota. said...

i found a leusistic cardinal.

it was pink, grey and white. beautiful little animal.

Amy said...

I love that first picture of the pair, how sweet. What a beautiful bird, and how nice that it has a friend!