Adorable, Luminous, and Rare

The rare patch of black feathers is evidence that the bird is leucistic, not albino. Photo: Brad R. Lewis

Hummingbirds are frequent visitors to this site, including the Anna’s hummingbird. All hummingbirds are known as tiny winged gems flitting from flower to flower or feeder to feeder, so the individual pictured above is especially startling. The term “leucistic” is new to us, and we thank Audubon.org for bringing this to our attention.

Rare White Hummingbird Steals the Spotlight at California Garden

In the Australian Gardens at the University of California, Santa Cruz Arboretum, a dozen Anna’s Hummingbirds dart between golden banksia flowers and various pink and white blooming shrubs. Their feathers are bright, iridescent shades of emerald, pink and gray. The grove is awash with color.

Except for one strange bird that’s sitting in a cypress tree, watching the flurry of feeding and fluttering. It’s an Anna’s Hummingbird—and it’s almost entirely white.

Not much is known about the mysterious white hummingbird that’s been there since May except that it has leucism, a developmental condition resulting in the loss of pigmentation. Unlike albino birds, which can’t produce the pigment melanin, leucistic birds produce melanin but can’t deposit it into their feathers. Albino birds also have red or pink eyes, but this hummingbird’s eyes are black, along with its bill and feet.

What makes this bird extremely rare is that it is almost entirely white, says Steve Gerow, bird records keeper for the Santa Cruz Bird Club. Most leucistic birds are only partially affected, and have white patches of feathers amid colored plumage.

See more photos on the site here.

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