Connecticut Audbon Society

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The Whiteness of the Bird

Albino SparrowAlbinism is rare in wild animals but a friend named Kay Eyberse took this photo of an albino bird, probably a house sparrow, in Taftville. When we asked her about it, she said there were actually two, visiting the feeder at her sister’s house.

Miley Bull, our senior director of science and conservation, said the pinkness of the eye marks it as a true albino. says this:

“A full or true albino (see illustration at the top of this page) is a very specific mutation with a well known genetic cause similar across all vertebrates. These birds are unable to produce melanin at all because of the absence of the required enzyme tyrosinase. All of the plumage is white and the skin is unpigmented. Even the eye is unpigmented, and appears pink or red as we see the blood vessels in the retina. Melanin serves some critical functions in vision and in protecting the eye from UV radiation, so full albino birds can’t see well and for that and other reasons don’t survive long in the wild. Adult full albino birds are essentially never seen in the wild. Note that the inability to produce melanin does not affect the red carotenoid pigments, so the red color appears more or less as usual on this bird’s feathers and bill. An albino bird is not necessarily all white!”






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