February 23, 2019
| Leucistic Black-chinned Hummingbird by Vineeth Radhakrishnan |
Congratulations to our BirdSpotter Judges’ Choice winner, Vineeth Radhakrishnan of Kerrville, Texas, for this ghostly shot of a Black-chinned Hummingbird! Vineeth says he felt fortunate to get an opportunity to photograph this rare find.
There are several types of color variants – and birds sporting these abnormalities are among the hardest to identify. In terms of pigment loss, birds can be affect by both albanism and leucism. Albinism is a genetic mutation that prevents the production of melanin (but not other pigments, such as carotenoids); consequently, it is possible for a bird to be albinistic and still have color, although most consider true albinism to be an absence of all pigment. Leucism refers to an abnormality in the deposition of pigment in feathers. The condition can result in a reduction in all types of pigment, causing pale or muted colors on the entire bird. Or the condition can cause irregular patches of white, and birds with these white patches are sometimes described as “pied” or “piebald.” This third type of mutation that results in pied birds is called partial albinism by some and leucism by others.
Albinistic birds have pink eyes because without melanin in the body, the only color in the eyes comes from the blood vessels behind the eyes. It is possible for a bird to be completely white and still have melanin in the body, as when a white bird has dark eyes. In this case the bird would be considered leucistic because the mutation only applies to depositing melanin in the feathers, not the absence of melanin in the body.
Submissions are still open for the final BirdSpotter category Boring is Beautiful. Submit your photo by midnight Eastern Time on Thursday, February 28, for a chance to win and be entered in our Grand Prize Contest! Winners will be announced on Friday, March 1. Biweekly People’s Choice and Judges’ Choice winners receive prizes from the Cornell Lab and our sponsor, Wild Birds Unlimited and are entered into the final Grand Prize contest. Anyone can participate in the BirdSpotter contest by entering a photo and voting for their favorites. Voting for the current category is open now, and voting for the Grand Prize winners begins March 2nd. Find out more about the BirdSpotter contest.