Junco Surprise

Ever since December, juncos have been gorging on my millet feeders. Yet every time I slide the kitchen chair to the backyard door, I see another interesting junco in the mix. Over the course of the winter, I've seen several Cassiar Juncos and the variance between the subspecies/intergrade always amazes me. For a week in February, a Pink-sided Junco decided to hunker in my yard during the heavy snowfall that month. Slate-colors were in high numbers as I once saw eight individuals in the yard. I find that an amazing number for Oregon.

Yet on March 9, I was gifted with something that may be a once in a million experience. I was grilling and at 5:07 pm, I saw a light-colored bird land on the ground just below my bush millet feeder. When I placed my binoculars on it, I saw the white face and know that this was a leucistic Oregon Dark-eyed Junco. Leucism is the condition in which an animal cannot distribute the melanin (dark color pigments) across it's body. This results in a white speckled body (pied) or a washed out look (dilute). I've always liked explaining this to people as many, including experts, would call this aberrant plumage a semi-albino. However, scientifically speaking, that doesn't exist since albinism is the lack of producing melanin at all and the explanation to why the animal will be completely white/cream with pink eyes and extremities. Albinism is also much rarer in the wild.

I always find it awesome to find a leucistic bird. I have seen several in my lifetime excluding the junco. These such observations include a Mourning Dove (with snowy white tail), Red-tailed Hawk (with white p8) and Song Sparrow (juvenile with white speckles on the head and back). Now I've got another bird I can add on to my list of aberrant plumages. Maybe the next one I'll see will have xanthochromism!

Posted on March 16, 2019 11:58 PM by birdwhisperer birdwhisperer


Photos / Sounds


Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)




March 9, 2019 06:07 PM MST


Leucistic individual


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