adventures in nature

partial leucistic red-tailed hawk

(the following picture was added after the original post)

partial leucistic red-tailed hawk

partial leucistic red-tailed hawk

partially leucistic red-tailed hawk 01 / Sonoma County CA

partial leucistic red-tailed hawk 01 / Sonoma County CA

Thanks to a tip from Larry “the raptor magnet” Broderick of West County Hawk Watch, I was able to see another amazing bird yesterday. Leucism is a recessive gene defect that affects the pigment cells’ development in some parts or an entire animal, causing either the whole animal or some of its feathers, fur, hair or skin to be white. It’s similar to (but different than) albinism, which only affects the melanin pigment cells. The effect can be really cool to see, as it is in this red-tailed hawk that I photographed in Sonoma County yesterday.

partially leucistic red-tailed hawk 02 / Sonoma County CA

partial leucistic red-tailed hawk 02 / Sonoma County CA

Viewing the bird from the front or from underneath, it’s difficult to tell that it has different plumage than a typical red-tailed hawk, though on close inspection of it flying from underneath, you can see a couple of flight feathers that are all white. From a rear or top-down view while flying, it is obvious (and not easy to photograph!! I forgot to bring my jet pack yesterday).

partially leucistic red-tailed hawk 03 / Sonoma County CA

partial leucistic red-tailed hawk 03 / Sonoma County CA

partially leucistic red-tailed hawk 04 / Sonoma County CA

partially leucistic red-tailed hawk 04 / Sonoma County CA

partially leucistic red-tailed hawk 05 / Sonoma County CA

partially leucistic red-tailed hawk 05 / Sonoma County CA

partially leucistic red-tailed hawk 06 / Sonoma County CA

partially leucistic red-tailed hawk 06 / Sonoma County CA

partially leucistic red-tailed hawk 07 / Sonoma County CA

partially leucistic red-tailed hawk 07 / Sonoma County CA

A bald eagle that I photographed last winter also has leucism, and it was striking. See those posts with pictures again here.

Another local raptor expert, George Eade, photographed an almost completely white red-tailed hawk here in the Bay Area a few years ago, his pictures can be seen here. The bird and the pictures are absolutely amazing.

3 responses

  1. Amazing, so cool. thanks Zach for being such a awesome partner in the the fascination and documentation of nature. this is a great bird. we have it recorded back to 2007 and that was adult [lumage, so we know its at least 7 or 8 years old.

    September 20, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    • Christine

      Of the leucistic Red-tails I’ve seen as they molt each year they become whiter. Yours looks more like a young hawk. They rarely live as long as the average pigmented relative and are usually ostrasized by their own kind.

      October 11, 2013 at 9:22 pm

  2. Ann Prentiss

    Thanks, Zach, for sharing your awesome photos. You have an incredible gift for capturing magical moments. I look forward to more!

    September 24, 2012 at 4:26 pm

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