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What is Leucism?

  • February 19, 2016
  •   
  • Damla Beton/Birtan Gökeri

Leucistic Skylark (by Birtan Gökeri)

Leucistic Skylark (by Birtan Gökeri)

Leucistic Skylark (by Birtan Gökeri)

Leucistic Skylark (by Birtan Gökeri)

Leucistic Sparrow (Parus sp.) (by Birtan Gökeri)

Leucistic Song Thrush (by Mehmet Biricik)

Leucistic Stonechat (by Birtan Gökeri)

No, it’s not Albino! That’s different. Albino individuals look completely white…”. This is Leucism, so when a bird loses part of its pigmentation. For instance, the head color might be the only change while the beak is still black and the feet look normal.

So, how did we get here? First of all, because of the picture of the Stonechat committee member Birtan Gökeri took on October 31st last year. The first time I saw it I thought, “I don’t think it’s an albino, so is it another species?......but what?”. Then Birtan told us the story behind it:

“I came across with this bird when two hunter friends of mine were intrigued by it and called me knowing I had an interest in birds. Although they are hunters, they are people who kept birds as pets since childhood and joined my bird photography trips a handful of times. I eventually found the striking bird. This bird was a white colored form of Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola). It was behaving so adorably that I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it. I carried on watching it and took pictures and videos over many days. Later on, I introduced this lovely bird to Turkish and Greek Cypriot bird photographers and bird watchers. They were also as pleased as I was to see it. The behavior of the bird was very typical of those of other Stonechats making it easily identifiable as such. After approximately 2 weeks, it left the area either because of the pressure of hunting, disturbance from “twitchers” or the need to change its location. I hope that the bird was not shot by a hunter or predated.”

Apparently Birtan photographed a similar sparrow on 25.01.2010 at Güzelyurt and a similar Skylark (Alauda arvensis)  on 11.12.2010 at Sadrazamköy.

During the song thrush hunt on Sunday 14th February this year, a hunter shot a similar looking Song Thrush. When he could not figure out what it was, he shared its photograph through facebook. A thrush (Turdus) with normal body coloration with a white head.

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