Are Albino and Leucistic Robins Rare?
It's exciting to see a bird with unique plumage, but how rare is an albino or leucistic robin? Our experts share facts about white robins.
White Robins: Leucistic or Albino?
For two years in a row, a white American robin brieﬂy showed up at my birdbath. How rare is it, and do you think it could be the same bird? —Birds & Blooms reader Susan Jacobsen of New Berlin, Wisconsin
Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman: For some reason, the lack of pigment in the feathers—called leucism or albinism—seems to occur more often in robins than in most other birds. (Check out these dazzling white hummingbirds!) But it’s still rare, affecting about one out of every 30,000 robins, according to some estimates. So there’s a good chance you saw the same bird twice, rather than two different ones.
Individual robins tend to be faithful to certain locations, returning to the same places in summer, winter and even during migration, so it’s possible that you might see your special visitor again.
Check out 15 photos of white cardinals and other leucistic birds.
“Is this American robin leucistic?” asks Candy Brus of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Kenn and Kimberly: Yes, this is a good example of the effects of leucism on a bird’s plumage. This robin isn’t a true albino, because it has dark eyes, a bright yellow bill and some areas of normal gray and orange rufous in its feathers. But it’s lacking most of the pigment in its plumage, creating this striking mostly white bird.
Leucism occurs regularly in American robins, but it’s a rare and special experience any time you get to see one like this.
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Leucistic Robin Sightings
Courtesy Martha Chavez
“I was absolutely enchanted when I saw an American robin with partial albinism (above) last fall. Winter passed, and I wasn’t sure if I would see this special leucistic bird again. I was so happy when it reappeared in my yard once March arrived!” says reader Martha Chavez.
Courtesy Sue Moore
“Once, in early spring, I let my dog out and saw a flash of white. Knowing there aren’t any birds in this area of Minnesota that are white, I decided to investigate. On closer inspection, it looked like a partially albino male robin (above). Instead of flying off, he stuck around for over a week, sitting in the treetops and singing his heart out. Quite an unusual sight!” says Sue Moore.
Next, learn all about robin nests and robin eggs.