Friday, December 11, 2009

Leucistic Red-tailed Hawk in Adams County

At approximately 3:00pm today, Richard McCarty spotted a white bird soaring overhead while driving west toward West Union on St. Rt. 125 near Vaugn Ridge Rd. He called in to his colleagues at the Edge of Appalachia Preserve office and there were soon four pairs eyes straining behind cameras, binoculars, and a spotting scope to get a better look at the unusual bird. After fifteen minutes in the freezing wind, we decided the bird was an abnormally-colored Red-tailed Hawk. It was white with yellow beak and legs, and had some darker feathers on its wings, as well as a few reddish feathers in its tail. According to Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology website, in rare cases, a bird does not produce melanin at a normal level or in a normal pattern. The resulting color patterns are referred to as being albino (white), partially albino or leucistic. The color patterns can be the result of injury, poor nutrition or a genetic imbalance.