It’s a cool breezy 69 degrees as I write this column looking out my living room bay window. It’s supposed to get to a low of 48 degrees tonight, but currently a ruby-throated hummingbird has been flying to the sugar-water feeder hanging from an extended gutter hook.
Last week from the same window, a bird I couldn’t identify landed on my suet feeder among the many black-capped chickadees. Grabbing my National Audubon Society field guide and resorting to a Google search, I finally figured out she was either an albino or leucistic black-capped chickadee, which basically means because of a genetic mutation that prevents pigment, notably melanin, a bird can have all white plumage.
I wondered if her bright white feathers would attract the attention of some nearby red-tailed hawks and read that leucism in birds can indeed rob them of their protective camouflage. In addition, being a pure white black-capped chickadee can hinder the opportunity to find a strong, healthy mate since the plumage colors play an important role in courtship rituals. I’m not worried about Lucy, our leucistic chickadee. She’s been hanging around for over a week, and the other birds seem to love her.