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Why are these robins spotted?

This bird was photographed by Betty VanderWal and sent to Ranger Steve.

This bird was photographed by Betty VanderWal and sent to Ranger Steve.

This bird was photographed by Jennifer August in Solon Township.

This bird was photographed by Jennifer August in Solon Township.

Jennifer August, of Solon Township, sent us this photo of an American Robin, with feathers that look like they are missing some pigment. We sent the photo on to Ranger Steve Mueller, our wildlife and botanical expert, and he told us that it is a partially albino (or pied) robin.

He said he also received pictures this week of the same type of bird (or possibly the same bird) from Betty VanderWal.

And the condition is not as rare as you might think. “My ornithology instructor, Harold Mahan at Central Michigan University wrote an ornithology textbook with George J. Wallace from Michigan State University. They commented that partial albinism is common and is most frequently reported in robins, crows, sparrows, and red-winged blackbirds,” he explained.

Albinos have white feathers lacking pigment and reflect all the light making them appear white.

“Complete albinism is a genetic disorder that often results in death at a young age in affected individuals,” wrote Steve. “They often experience other physical problems.”

He said that the partial albinism is referred to as the pied state and may be patchy, forming a mosaic like is pictured in the photos. “Such individuals may live well without the serious health effects that happen in complete albinos,” noted Steve. “A pied robin returned to a banding station in Pennsylvania for eight years.”

He added that they have several mounted specimens of partially albino house sparrows at Howard Christensen Nature Center, 16190 Red Pine Dr NW, Kent City, and he encourages readers to go visit and take a look at them. Visit http://lilysfrogpad.com to learn more about the Nature Center’s open hours.

 

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