As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Unique natural beauty: Leucistic red-winged blackbird near Green Bay

By Paul A. Smith of the Journal Sentinel
April 29, 2013

The spring bird migration in North America offers many of the most colorful wildlife viewing opportunities of the year.

In addition to the chance to see rare or unusual species as they pass through, spring features birds in breeding plumage, avian finery designed to help attract a mate.

This spring, courtesy of Nancy Nabak of Green Bay, we're privileged to witness a once-in-a-lifetime bird in Wisconsin.

Nabak has shared photos of a beautifully-colored bird that's especially noteworthy because it's not in the animal's standard dress.

Take a look at the spectacular photo below and try to guess the species.

It's a "leucistic" male red-winged blackbird. Leucism is a genetic mutation that results in a lack of pigment. 

Nabak, an avid birder and chair of the Bird City Wisconsin program in Green Bay, said she received a call earlier this month from a friend who had seen an unusual bird.

Nabak attempted to locate the bird near Green Bay. On the third try she was able to see and photograph it. 

Birds with unusual plumage are among the most difficult to identify. They don't appear in field guides and the abnormality may hide or change some key color features. But in this case Nabak knew shortly after seeing the bird it was a leucistic redwing.

"What a beauty," Nabak said. "I watched him interact with other redwings."

Several of Nabak's photographs show the leucistic redwing displaying its red shoulder patches, a typical behavior for male redwings.

Red-winged blackbirds are native to Wisconsin and among the most abundant bird species in North America. The species typically migrates south of Wisconsin for the winter. Male redwings normally feature an all-black body and head with red-and-yellow shoulder patches or "epaulettes."

Most people have heard of albinism, or the absence of pigment. Leucism comes in two main varieties: paleness, an equal reduction of melanin in all feathers; and pied, an absence of melanin in some feathers creating white patches.

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