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Monday, 26 May 2014 20:00

Ghost Chippy

My mother-in-law, Nancy, encountered this unique-looking sparrow in East Hampton on Sunday. She was watching a few wild turkeys across a field when she was surprised by what she described as a "white bird" flitting through the grasses. I opened one of the photos she sent me on my phone and said I thought it was a chipping sparrow based on the chestnut cap and white eyebrow streak - but I commented that I couldn't tell for sure because the photo looked kind of washed out. What I didn't realize until later was that the photo was actually quite clear - rather, it was the bird itself that was "washed out." Smart enough not to rely soley on her son-in-law for bird identifications, Nancy turned to Longislandbirding.com for an answer and learned that the bird was, in fact, a chipping sparrow, but that it had an abnormal plumange condition called leucism. The condition is apparenlty caused by a defect in the pigment cells that results in either 1) white patches, 2) paler overall plumage or 3) all white plumage. The East Hampton chippy obviously fell into the second category - it has some of its recognizable plumage, but was overall much paler than usual. The condition afffects a wide range of birds (including bluebirds and hummingbirds) and other animals. I'll confess that I've never heard of the condition and was fascinated to see its impacts across the animal kingdom. Kudos to my mother-in-law for the keen eye and fantastic photos! And thanks to Longislandbirding for the science lesson. - Enrico

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Last modified on Friday, 05 December 2014 22:04
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