Several weeks ago, we experienced a red-tailed hawk sighting off Placida Road. We always are excited to see any birds of prey, but particularly happy to see the less common red-tailed hawk. (The everyday hawk here in our piece of Florida is the red-shouldered hawk.)
It was quite the coincidence to receive an email from Jill Hopkins, an old friend, the next day. She was excited to share her news with me regarding her son Jay’s recent sighting.
He was flying his camera-equipped drone over a forested area behind his pk彩票 on the outskirts of Gettysburg, Pa, and discovered a large white bird in a nest with babies. At first he thought it was an albino red-tailed hawk. His mother emailed me the photos and asked what I thought.
I blew up the pictures they sent to me and realized the bird was a red-tailed hawk — but it was leucistic, not albino. This still is an exciting find, and more exciting being able to see the nest with the young. We are quite fortunate to have Luna, the only know leucistic eastern screech owl, as a resident bird at Peace River Wildlife Center. He’s quite the attraction when the Center is open.
Leucism is the partial or total loss of pigmentation, creating white or partially white feathers, fur, hair, etc. Albinism is another condition that can produce white feathers. But an albino animal has red eyes, whereas leucistic animals have normal eye color or very dark eyes.
Leucistic red-tailed hawks seem to be more abundant than I imagined. After a bit of research, I discovered sightings across the entire U.S. The red-tailed hawk is a common species with a huge range, so maybe that explains the high number of leucistic sightings. Or perhaps the gene pool of this species has a lot of leucistic mutations in it.
Almost any animal species may show up with odd color mutations. We once boated through a tropical jungle on a nature trip to Costa Rica. Our sightings of macaws and miniature bats were outstanding. However, spotting an albino howler monkey was the highlight of the trip.
Apparently, this white monkey was known but not usually seen. The troop would not allow it to travel with them, so the monkey and its mother followed behind them. This was definite monkey discrimination.
This would say to me it’s a negative to have albinism or leucism in nature, as it will make the animal stand out rather than blend into its surroundings. This will make them more prone to being attacked by predators or rejected from their troop or flock. Rejection is quite sad.
When Peace River reopens, visit Luna and all the other birds. It will be your only chance to see a leucistic eastern screech owl.
Abbie Banks is a member of the Venice Area Birding Association, a group of folks who want to enjoy the environment and nature without the cumbersome politics of an organized group. For more info on VABA or to be notified of upcoming birding trips, visit or email her at Amberina@aol.com.