Is This White Mourning Dove Albino?

Spotted a white dove? Learn how to tell if you're seeing an albino mourning dove. Plus, see other backyard birds with unusual white feathers.

If you’ve ever noticed a mourning dove that looks different with white splotches or patches of all-white feathers, does that mean it’s an albino dove? Read on for expert advice to identify a white mourning dove and other uniquely colored backyard birds.

Leucistic bird vs albino bird: learn the difference.

White Mourning Dove: Albino or Leucistic?

A leucistic mourning doveCourtesy Marla Neiss
A leucistic mourning dove with white feathers

“An unusual dove (above) has frequented my feeder for two years. Can you identify it?” asks Birds & Blooms reader Marla Neiss of Navarre, Ohio.

This unique and lovely creature is not an albino mourning dove; it is a leucistic form of a mourning dove. Leucism is a reduction or lack of certain pigments in the plumage, and it can be expressed in various ways. Sometimes a bird has pure white feathers (all over or in patches), and sometimes the colors just seem diluted or paler than normal.

Learn how to identify a white-winged dove.

This individual dove seems to have both of those effects going on, leading to the pattern seen in your photo, with mostly white wings and pale fawn-brown body.

What does it mean if you see a mourning dove?

Is This an Albino Goldfinch?

A leucistic American goldfinchCourtesy Sunde Sheckler
A leucistic American goldfinch

“I tried a new goldfinch food made with thistle and other tiny seeds, and it attracted this beauty. Is it an albino goldfinch?” asks Sunde Sheckler of Sparta, Michigan.

Isn’t it fun to find one of our more familiar birds with odd-looking plumage? Your lovely visitor is indeed an American goldfinch, and something unusual is going on with the pigment in its feathers. It appears to have black in the normal areas of the wings and tail, and it still shows some of the yellow, but it’s white in many areas that normally would be buff or brown in winter. When a bird is lacking some of those pigments, it is said to be partly leucistic (pronouced loo-KIS-tick).

Are albino and leucistic robins rare?

Leucistic House Sparrow

A leucistic female house sparrowCourtesy Kathleen Tincher
A leucistic female house sparrow

“What kind of bird is this?” asks Kathleen Tincher of Hoffman Estates, Illinois.

A bird like this is genuinely confusing because you won’t find a picture of another individual that looks exactly like it. That’s because the bird is leucistic, which means that it lacks melanin pigments in some of its feathers. Some of the normal colors are replaced with white. If we ignore the extra white patches on the wings, throat and elsewhere, it has the shape, color and markings of a female house sparrow.

Next, don’t miss pictures of rare white hummingbirds.

Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman
Kenn and Kimberly are the official Birds & Blooms bird experts. They are the duo behind the Kaufman Field Guide series. They speak and lead bird trips all over the world. When they're not traveling, they enjoy watching birds and other wildlife in their Northwest Ohio backyard. Fascinated with the natural world since the age of 6, Kenn has traveled to observe birds on all seven continents, and has authored or coauthored 14 books about birds and nature, including include seven titles in his own series, Kaufman Field Guides, designed to encourage beginners by making the first steps in nature study as easy as possible. His next book, The Birds That Audubon Missed, is scheduled to be published by Simon & Schuster in May 2024. Kenn is a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society, and has received the American Birding Association’s lifetime achievement award twice. Kimberly is the Executive Director of Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) in northwest Ohio. She became the Education Director in 2005 and Executive Director in 2009. As the Education Director, Kimberly played a key role in building BSBO’s school programs, as well as the highly successful Ohio Young Birders Club, a group for teenagers that has served as a model for youth birding programs. Kimberly is also the co-founder of The Biggest Week In American Birding, the largest birding festival in the U.S. Under Kimberly’s leadership, BSBO developed a birding tourism season in northwest Ohio that brings an annual economic impact of more than $40 million to the local economy. She is a contributing editor to Birds & Blooms Magazine, and coauthor of the Kaufman Field Guides to Nature of New England and Nature of the Midwest. Accolades to her credit include the Chandler Robbins Award, given by the American Birding Association to an individual who has made significant contributions to education and/or bird conservation. In 2017, she received a prestigious Milestone Award from the Toledo Area YWCA. Kimberly serves on the boards of Shores and Islands Ohio and the American Bird Conservancy.