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News Archive > General > Rare appearance of white sparrow proves real ‘treat’

Rare appearance of white sparrow proves real ‘treat’

By Natasha Swift 15th January 2021

Rare appearance of white sparrow proves real ‘treat’
Barry Hitchens, from Polgooth, called experts from nearby Lost Gardens of Heligan to investigate the discovery of this small, white plumed bird in his garden, The team from Heligan identified the bird to be a leucistic sparrow, a rare visitor to our shores Picture courtesy of Andy Wilson @WILSONWILDLIFE

A rare bird has been discovered in a Polgooth garden after a puzzled resident called in the experts to help identify the unusual looking creature.

Barry Hitchens, from Polgooth, was puzzled by the small, white plumed bird visiting his garden and called experts at the nearby Lost Gardens of Heligan to investigate.

The Heligan team identified the garden visitor as a rare leucistic sparrow. From a distance the sparrow looks completely white but upon closer examination you can see that it has a few brown feathers.

Leucistic means that the bird is not totally lacking in pigment and has dark eyes rather than the distinctive pink of a true albino sparrow. Leucism, or leukism, is an abnormal plumage condition caused by a genetic mutation that prevents pigment, particularly melanin, from being properly deposited on a bird's feathers.

Heligan team member and wildlife photographer, Andy Wilson, managed to capture some great images of the snowy looking sparrow.

He said: “It was a real treat to photograph this unusual looking bird, it certainly stood out within the garden and amongst the other sparrows. I feel really privileged to have had the opportunity to observe and photograph such a rarity.”

Unfortunately, the chances of survival are low since the distinctive whiteness, caused by the partial loss of pigment, makes it a target for birds of prey.

A Heligan spokesperson said: “As many birds in search of winter food are visiting gardens, it is not only the perfect time to make sure that your bird feeders are full but also to enjoy what you can see in your own garden. Like Barry discovered, it could be something quite rare.”

By Natasha Swift 15th January 2021

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