December 5, 2020

Are leucistic birds ostracised from the flock? Readers’ nature queries

By haziqbinarif

We have lots of sparrows coming to our bird table, and recently my husband spotted one with a white head. Will this bird be ostracised or be able to breed like the others? – Ann Mangan, Dungarvan, Co Waterford
Sometimes a leucistic bird is driven away, but yours seems to be part of the flock. It will be able to mate, and the genetic mutation may be passed on to progeny.

Leucistic chaffinch
Leucistic chaffinch

I saw this most beautiful little leucistic chaffinch in my garden that was fascinating to watch. How common are they? – Lelia McHale, Knockmore, Co Mayo
Leucistic chaffinch are not common but are indeed beautiful. Leucism is a genetic mutation that prevents melanin (which gives colour) from being deposited normally on feathers, but it is present in other parts of the body.

Great white egret
Great white egret

This beautiful winter visitor, a great egret, is wintering in Baltimore. It seems happy with a flotilla of ducks and a watchful heron. – Richard Marten, Baltimore, Co Cork
The great white egret is regular visitor to the south coast in late spring and summer, but occasionally it now overwinters here.

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