Leucism - in birds and other animals

Looking at magpie photos (current iFocus) I came across this amazing shot of a leucistic magpie

I would like to encourage people who have pictures/records of leucistic birds or other taxa (not necessarily as spectacular as this example) to tag them as ‘leucistic’ as it would be good to be able to gather them all together. (There are, of course, many other colour variants, such as melanism and Xanthochromism but I think that it would be better to tag these differently. For example, there are many records of abnormal great tits in Surrey, some of which lack yellow pigmentation and others where the white cheek patches are black!)


We had a blackbird with a white head and neck not long ago.

When I was young we lived in a part of south buckinghamshire where there was quite a few blackbirds with white patches mostly on there wings.
They were only seen over a small area so just one or two breeding pairs.

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At our previous house we used to see blackbirds with the odd white feather but nothing quite as you describe, Ref.

I read « Leucistic animals may change their coloration throughout their lives as they usually don’t lose the genes for pigmentation; rather, they may be temporarily turned off. We’ve had leucistic animals turn from a majority white to nearly normal coloration over their lifespan. «

The article is about alligators.
The article also says « Leucism — which manifests in wildlife as white skin and dark eyes — is a rare color disorder occurring in a range of invertebrates and vertebrates, «
It seems very rare in inverts (if the google scholar search is to be believed) I found just one scorpion , Tityus pusillus .

Interesting! But surely leucism is at least to some extent due to an inherited gene. There are examples of ‘white feathered blackbirds’ occurring in a small area over several generations.

That is right. The blackbirds with white bits were in an area of about 50 gardens in south Buckinghamshire.
It was a very local thing.

How about the black squirrels at Woburn over the border in Bedfordshire.

I think that melanism is a different colour aberration but for all I know it works in much the same way - as in Surrey’s well documented melanistic great tits.

Leucism in blackbirds

I like the Wiki about white elephants and how it related to expensive useless things.
If your elephant gives birth to a calf with leucism in some parts of the far east you are lumbered with it.

@miked I’ve emailed you - hope okay - to ask for tags leucistic and leucism to be added to the Magpie obs featured here.

Screen shot 2011-04-28 at 19.58.11.p ](https://www.ispotnature.org/communities/uk-and-ireland/view/observation/45568/screen-shot-2011-04-28-at-195811p#new)

and there may be others. I’m leaving a message for a contributor who was last active in 2021 re a leucistic blackbird they observed in 2020, asking for tagging if they get the message.

Mike has added the tag leucistic to the Magpie observation:
Screen shot 2011-04-28 at 19.58.11.p ](https://www.ispotnature.org/communities/uk-and-ireland/view/observation/45568/screen-shot-2011-04-28-at-195811p#new ) Thanks @miked

To keep the tagging to the minimum necessary, Mike has added ‘leucistic’ rather than both tags that have been in use. So if you see an observation with a leucistic animal, please ask the observer to add the descriptive tag ‘leucistic’ choosing from the existing drop-down tag list so that a collection can be continued as Ken (Surreybirder) has promoted at the top of this thread.
@Surreybirder @dejayM @NorthernTeacher

Thanks :slight_smile:

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This is a particularly interesting example, that I came across during the Corvidae iFocus:

I’m not convinced that it is a jackdaw. The nape doesn’t look pale and the tail is pointed.

I wish that someone would run this one through Fastcat - because it has got me puzzled.

This is an interesting example of a leucistic crow.

Indeed. And nice worm, too. If Lavatiraguy happens to read this, perhaps he could add the tag ‘leucistic’ to his observation.

Already done so. (And the forum s/w wants me to repeat myself, or something.)

It doesn’t like short messages!

Another possible candidate for the tag (?) if Miked is willing; https://www.ispotnature.org/communities/uk-and-ireland/view/observation/192843/raven

Yes, a nice leucistic bird. But I’d vote for crow rather than raven.