Rare White Hummingbirds Dazzle Birdwatchers

Birders captured spectacular photos of albino and leucistic white hummingbirds. Learn how to tell the difference between these rare conditions.

leucistic Anna's hummingbirdCourtesy Sally Rae Kimmel
Leucistic Anna’s hummingbird

White Leucistic Hummingbird

“A leucistic Anna’s hummingbird visited the Australian Garden at the University of California, Santa Cruz Arboretum, a public garden about 60 miles from my home,” says Sally Rae Kimmel of Lafayette, California. “I love hummingbirds, so I had to drive there to see this rare bird for myself.” While the hummingbird’s feathers are almost pure white, it is not an albino hummingbird. Psst—this is the difference between albino and leucistic birds.

“I’d heard that seeing it was hit or miss, but I got extremely lucky,” Kimmel says. “The bird streaked across the sky like a white bullet, then hovered over the blossoms in front of me. Wow!” 

As my heart raced, I took as many photos as I could until it sped off as fast as it had flown in! I’ve been back at the arboretum to look for it many times since that day. Sometimes I’ve seen it and sometimes I haven’t. But each time I do, I’m still in awe at the sight. And I’m grateful that it graced me with its presence.” 

In 2017, birders reported a second white hummingbird in the area, reported to be an Allen’s hummingbird. Birders flocked by the dozens to see and photograph these rare tiny fliers.

Check out more stunning hummingbird photos you need to see.

albino hummingbirdCourtesy David Jones
Albino hummingbird

White Albino Hummingbird

David Jones of Muskogee, Oklahoma, shared this photo of an albino hummingbird that came to visit his feeder. He asked, “How rare are birds like this?”

Birding experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman replied, “Every year there are a few reports of hummingbirds that are partly or mostly white. These birds lack most of the melanin and other pigments in their feathers and are called leucistic. But the bird in your photo appears to have the characteristics of a true albino hummingbird: completely white feathers, pink bill and feet, and even pink eyes. Such true albino hummingbirds are extremely rare. What a treat to have this exceptional and beautiful white hummingbird visiting your feeders.”

Next, check out amazing photos of rare yellow northern cardinals.

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Lori Vanover
Lori Vanover is the senior digital editor for Birds & Blooms. She has a bachelor's degree in agricultural and environmental communications from the University of Illinois. Lori is certified as a Wisconsin Extension Master Gardener and is also a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology.