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Mystery Bird December 31, 2016

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

I have only a few more hours to add bird species to the 2016 list. But I woke with the dreaded cold, stayed in bed til 10:30, and it’s already noon. Unless something exotic comes to my feeder (which needs to be filled) in the next few hours, my list is done.

We had hopes on Monday. We got word from friends of a snowy owl sighting, so we dropped everything and went. Found the bird, which was hundreds of yards away. But something was off. It was all white, but it didn’t look like an owl. It was shaped more like a hawk, and it’s eyes were definitely not owly. We tried to get closer with our scope, but between us and the crows, it got spooked.

It was not a snowy owl.

The best we could come up with via our guide was a white morph of a gyrfalcon. It truly looked like it could be this—even though it was all white—and it wouldn’t be impossible, but it would be unlikely. No one would believe this if we claimed it without photographic proof. Still, we’d never seen a gyrfalcon and were excited that that’s what it could be.

I also wondered if the bird was just an anomaly. Its eyes were dark, so I figured it wasn’t albino, but when I got home I started researching that to be sure. That’s when I discovered that birds could be leucistic—loss of pigment, but not in the eyes. And it became clear that what we saw was almost certainly a leucistic red-tailed hawk.

That’s not a bird I can add to my species list, but it was cool.

We went back yesterday to look for it again—nothing.

Really wish we could have gotten a photo.


1. Mali - January 2, 2017

Seems unfair. A leucistic red-tailed hawk should qualify as another species!

(I’m all for bending the rules. I have done that a little on my “countries visited” list.)

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