Thursday, September 23, 2010

Albino Hummingbird in Indiana

A pretty cool looking hummingbird has been seen in Vigo County, Indiana, near Terre Haute. It is a true albino Ruby-throated hummingbird, which means it does not have any pigment on the body. The feathers are completely white and the eye is red. I do not have any photos of the bird, but here are links to Marty Jones's photos and Jim Sullivan's photos. (There recently was another white hummingbird, a leucistic one, that showed up in St. Louisville, Ohio this month. You can read about it here at Jim McCormac's blog and he has a nice explanation of leucism vs. albinism.)

Albino hummingbirds, although very beautiful, sadly do not survive. There are a couple of reasons. Allen Chartier, a fairly well-known hummingbird bander from Michigan, had some interesting comments on IN-bird , the Indiana Birds listserv, about albino hummingbirds and their survival. A hummingbird researcher in Oklahoma has been tracking albino hummingbirds. Of the banded ones, there have been no returnees. There, of course, is the obvious predation factor. A bright white hummingbird will stand out like a sore thumb to most predators. But Allen gave another reason I did not realize. According to Allen "it has also been proposed that these albino hummingbirds might not complete their migration as flight feathers lacking pigment are not as strong as normally colored ones, and so might wear out much faster, possibly even before the bird reaches its wintering grounds. They cannot force themselves to molt these worn feathers, as molt is driven by hormonal changes triggered by changing day length."

Interesting information, Allen!StumbleUpon

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