A white bird in May!

May 10th 2017

Mid-evening on 3rd May 2017 Jim Rosenburg from Drumbeg phoned to say he had been watching a white bird with red on its head feeding on nyjer seed in his garden that morning! Of course arrangements were made to visit him at 10am the following day.

Next morning at 9am the phone rang, it was Jim; “the bird is back, come quickly!”

Binoculars and camera had been readied the night before, just in case. So by 9.20am we had arrived at Jim’s house and two minutes later saw the bird. Wow was the initial reaction as we watched this small, very white passerine feeding on the ground along with numerous Chaffinch, Lesser Redpoll and Goldfinch.

Using Jim’s kitchen as a hide we were able to get great views of the bird and to photograph it at close range; it is in two of the photographs here. We could tell immediately it was a redpoll species and then we tried hard to make it an Arctic Redpoll (Acanthis hornemanni) as it was very white and had a faint pink wash to its chest and rump.

Then our brains started to take control and we realised it was ‘only’ a leucistic Lesser Redpoll (A. cabaret)! Lesser Redpoll are widespread in Assynt but we are not aware of any other records of leucistic birds.

Robins, Blackbirds, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Hooded Crows have all been recorded here with some loss of pigmentation in their feathers. Generally these birds do not survive well as they are more easily seen by predators and cannot hide as effectively as birds with ‘normal’ plumage.

The other photograph shows a Lesser Redpoll with the typical darker plumage.

So Jim’s bird was not a rarity but it was still a rare bird in its own right: very nice.

D and A Haines

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