Sunday, June 27, 2010

Some really odd-looking birds

Leucistic Turkey Vulture, Holmes County, Ohio area. Photo by Dane Adams.

Paul Hershberger recently sent along some interesting photos and observations from the Trail, Ohio area that he was gracious enough to allow me to share. All photos are by Dane Adams.

While out exploring last Saturday, Dane and Paul came across this striking specimen. Turkey Vultures are common enough, but individuals such as this certainly aren't. "Whitey" is a highly leucistic specimen, and must stick out like a sore thumb. Leucism is a genetic condition that causes dark pigments to be washed out, in a nutshell, causing excessively pale individuals. A true albino would have pink eyes, likely be stark white, but probably would not have made it out of the nest. Pure albino birds often suffer from greatly weakened feather shafts and other impediments caused by the albinism and don't survive to adulthood, at least species that attain this size.

It'll be interesting to see how long this bird lasts. Some years back, around 2000, there was a similar Turkey Vulture that spent its summers in Belmont County, and was widely seen and reported on for quite a few years.

Ghostly-looking Barn Owl. Paul reports that these owls are having a good nesting season in the Holmes County region, following a winter of high mortality due to deep snow cover. Barn Owls are at the northern cusp of their distribution in Ohio, and are vulnerable to prolonged nasty winter weather. Globally, this is the most broadly distributed of all owls, found on every continent but Antarctica. They pushed northward into Ohio following the opening up of our vast forests that blanketed Ohio prior to European settlement, which created favorable habitat for the birds.

A large family of owlets peer from a nest box. Barn Owls can respond rapidly to favorable opportunities, such as a boom in food sources. Meadow Voles - a small mouse-like rodent - must be doing well in the meadows up that way, leading to large broods such as this one. Normally, a clutch of six eggs would be on the large end of the brood size. Here's hoping that the "monkey-faced owls" flourish up there this year, and kudos to all of the farmers who provide nest sites for them, and even provide food during brutal winter weather.

Thanks to Paul and Dana for sharing these great birds.


Julie Zickefoose said...

Well that's two leucistic OH TV's, then. I saw the Woodsfield bird twice--once over our house in March 1993, and once near Woodsfield. It had a gray head and scattered black "keys" in its wings and tail. Magnificent to see in flight! Glad to see there's another thriller on the wing in Adams Co. He'll give many a person pause!

Anonymous said...

I was emailed a link to an article about a leucistic Bald Eagle that was seen during the winter eagle count at Beaver Lake in Arkansas. It is a cool bird. Here is a link to the article with a photo.

Brian Menker

Great Blue Heron, with ornamental plumes

  A Great Blue Heron, a very common wading bird and a species all of us are undoubtedly familiar with. It's never productive to get jade...