[This page contains information on albino robins that were spotted from 2006 through 2008. The page slowly grew longer and longer, and was getting way too big for a single web page. At the start of 2009, I decided to create a new page for that year. Please visit that page for 2009 information.]
Around the middle of June, 2006, I started to notice a strange bird hanging around the yard. What first caught my attention was that it was almost pure white. That's just plain strange in this area. When I was able to get a closer look at the bird, I noticed that it had the striking red/orange breast of a robin. The bird spent a lot of time on the ground, searching for worms/grubs. It looked like and acted like a robin, but it was an albino robin.
I thought I might have a rare find. As I started to search the Internet for information on albino robins, I came to learn that they are not that uncommon. Two facts that many web pages repeated were that 8.22% of all albino birds are robins, and that approximately 1 in 30,000 robins is an albino. The most rare albino robin is one that is completely white. Mine had a normal color breast, which seemed a common variation among albino robins. I had a partial albino.
So far, I have not seen the albino robin interact with other robins. Usually, the albino will be in one section of the yard, and several normal robins will be in another. I can't go as far as saying that the other birds are avoiding this stranger, but I've not seen any interactions. Interactions can be as simple as feeding in the same small area.
I noticed that some of the pages that talked about albino robins had sightings in northern Ohio. Places such as Kent and Canton. I'm located in that general area, so this may indeed be a hotbed of albino activity.
Here are some links to pages with more information on albino robins.
I did not find too many pictures of albino robins on the Internet. Since I had taken a few, I decided that it would worth it to put them on a web page. Please click on a picture for a larger view. These pictures were taken on or about June 30, 2006.
One of the folks who reported a partial albino mentioned that a more correct name for the partial albino may be a piebald robin.
Information on this page covers 2006 through 2008. 2009 information is contained on this page.
I thought it would interesting to list the sightings that I've heard about since creating this page. These reports came to me via email.
From time to time, a report of an albino robin is accompanied by some pictures. With the permission of the owners, I've included them here.
Since putting this page on the Internet, I've had a number of folks email or call me and tell me about their albino robins. Most have been from around my part of the country - Michigan and New York, for example. One person mentioned that this was the second year in a row that they have seen the same albino robin. The May 11, 2008 sighting in Rapid River, Michigan, marked the third year in a row for the same bird.
On July 21, 2007, I received an email from Clyde, out in beautiful Camino, California, about 50 miles east of Sacramento, towards Lake Tahoe. Clyde had seen this web page, and he told me about his albino robin, that appears to be the much more rare pure albino robin. Clyde had taken some great pictures, and he gave me permission to share them with everybody else.
Clyde has a lot of wildlife visiting his yard, include a deer with a very strange white face. I've included some pictures of the deer, and one of Clyde, obviously a good friend of all of the wildlife out there.
Please click on a picture for a larger view.
This sighting was around January 20, 2008. This was the second albino robin seen by these folks!
This sighting was around March 30, 2008.
This sighting was around April 8, 2008.
This sighting was around April 10, 2008. (this bird reminds me of mine, with nearly pure white except for the orange breast)
The left picture was taken in early April. The right two pictures were taken at the end of May.
This sighting was around April 10, 2008.
This sighting was around May 2, 2008.
This sighting was around May 5, 2008. This partial albino robin has decided to build a nest on top of security light right outside of a kitchen window. This makes it very easy to observe the activity. The homeowner reports a new egg every day, topping off at 5, with an estimated hatching time of Mother's Day weekend, 2008 (May 11). The bird has been named Biddy. More pictures of Biddy may follow.
This bird is special in that the homeowner reports that this is the third spring that they have seen the same bird.
The folks said that they have seen the bird around the area since early spring.
This is quite an interesting story. According to the person who sent me the picture, this pure albino robin was recently hatched in a nest located under their porch. The birds were startled, and attempted to fly away, but could only manage a short flight. After a number of calls to local agencies, a wildlife rescue agency arrived, and the birds have been moved to a safe location. Although this picture was taken when the bird was in a cage, it is probably the clearest and sharpest picture that most folks will see of a pure albino robin.
This bird was spotted around May 18, 2008. Flora is located in the southern part of the state, about 100 miles east of St. Louis, MO.
This bird was reported on May 23, 2008.
Just a few pictures back I made the bold and goofy claim that one might not see such a clear picture of a pure albino robin again. Well, just a few days later I received more great pictures of a pure albino robin. This baby was spotted on May 25, 2008, starting to explore the backyard of a home in southwestern Oregon. The right picture is especially moving, with the mother bird feeding the chick.
This female bird has been visible since early spring. She built a nest above a porch light at the front door! She has produced a normal clutch of eggs, and is raising the young along with a normal male.
This pure albino was recently hatched, and has been seen being fed by its normal mother.
The sighting came in on June 1, 2008.
These pictures were taken on May 27, 2008. the pretty white bird was first spotted on May 25th.
This sighting was reported on June 4, 2008. These folks have not just one baby pure albino robin, but two! Both are visible in the right picture. Both of these chicks shared the same nest, and the mother was observed to have normal coloring.
Does anyone know the odds of seeing two pure albino robins in one picture?
Although reported to me on June 8, 2008, this bird has been sighted for several weeks. This robin looks like the one I had, with an orange breast, but otherwise white.
This bird, reported on June 21, 2008, has interesting and different white spots as compared to all of the previous birds on this page. Several pictures appear at these links:
The person who sent me the links added the term calico to describe the coloring.
This albino chick was being fed by is mother right before these pictures were taken. With the pink eyes, this appears to be a pure albino. The pictures were taken on July 6, 2008.
This robin has been seen in the same local area for several years. Other normal robins seem to act territorially towards it, and chase it away for 50 yards or more. The pictures are dated July 21, 2008.
This is the first sighting reported on this page in the month of September. The picture was taken on September 8, 2008.
This partial albino was spotted on September 23, 2008.
This albino robin was spotted on October 26, 2008. The folks reporting the bird mentioned that they are only about 10 miles from Junction City, Oregon, the location of a sighting on July 21.
This artsy picture was taken in July of 2008.
The folks who reported the bird in Wausau, Wisconsin, on May 30, 2008, wrote me back a few days later. They had been talking to their brother, who is a nature lover, following in the footsteps of their father. They suggested that a more appropriate name for a partial albino robin is a piebald robin. I set off to try and understand the difference, if any.
A good question to start with is: how do we know anything. In today's world of the Internet, I find myself searching for all sorts of strange terms and topics quite often. If it's a word, then using a reputable dictionary is a good starting point. That was true before the Internet. When I'm more generally searching, I've learned it's a good idea to find several pages that say the same thing before starting to trust the conclusion. It's also a good idea to make some judgment of how trustworthy the site is. For example, when I'm directed to a site that wants to hit me with several pop-up windows and lots of ads, I just have to wonder what I'm getting into.
I must also admit that I also pay attention to email addresses. For example, when a person uses just their name, I find that honest and open. When the email name is something like "HotRodKingofFresno", or "anarchyrules", I find myself starting to wonder again. Of course first impressions can always be dead wrong.
Lots of searches these days end up at the Wikipedia. For matters of math/science/fact/data, I think it's pretty good. But, like all sources, not infallible. This is especially true on subjective matters. For example, I hope that nobody searches on a topic such as "who is the best president of the United States", goes to the first hit, and then writes down the answer. Even factual matters can present problems. In recent years, the number of, and even definition of, planet has been under review. One would think that's a long established fact.
Whenever I create a new web page, I like to have links to additional information on other pages, often times not my own. In the case of this page, I started off trying to figure out what I had seen in my yard. The three links at the top of this page represent what I found when putting this page together.
The first site is the American Robin page from something called Journey North. The site looks professional to me. In the FAQ (frequently asked questions) section, it had this very germane question and answer:
It's been about 2 years since I wrote this page, but I suspect that this was my source for the term partial albino, and applying it to Robins.
Well, the next paragraph is also interesting, and I suspect I glossed over it at the time. It is:
This paragraph introduces the term leucism. As I read it, it says that leucism is more of a pale coloring as opposed to pure white patches. Certainly some robins can exhibit leucism.
Ok, now the second link I have is to something called Webshots Outdoors, with a page title of Partial Albino Robin pictures from wildlife photos on webshots. This site, because of the advertising and general look and feel is obviously a place where interesting pictures are placed, paid for by advertising. It's not clear who called the birds on that page partial albino robins, and I liked this page because it showed alternative forms of the partial albino bird to contrast against what was in my yard. It's hard to call this page authoritative.
The third link, to the Chipper Woods Bird Observatory American Robin page. This page really doesn't talk about albino robins, other than to say albino birds commonly occur.
Now we have the new term piebald - well, at least new to me.
The dictionary says: Spotted or patched, especially in black and white: a piebald horse. Many of these robins certainly are spotted or patched, so piebald seems completely appropriate.
I then started to search on the term piebald. Lots of interesting pages were found. One seemed to speak very competently on a taxidermy forum. I also found myself at the Wikipedia, on the topic of leucism. Now that word was used above, quoted from the American Robin page. But, if you look closely, you'll see that the two pages are almost identical! This is another Internet phenomena that I've seem many times. The same content, word for word, appears on multiple pages. In some cases, this is just the same person making the same explanation more than once. In other cases, some sites shamelessly copy content and surround it with advertising. I have no idea how this situation evolved, and being copied does not mean that the content is either true or false.
If we accept this text as authoritative, we find that it states that leucism is separate from albinism. It also states that leucism is often mistaken for albinism. Albinism is the reduction of only melanin production, whereas leucism is the reduction in all types of pigment. This might suggest that albinism is a subset of leucism. That is my comment, not theirs. The page clearly defines piebald as being partial leucism.
Not to start to cloud the issue, but the Wikipedia has a page on albinism in birds. This page declares that there are 4 types of albinism, including the partial albino. The Wikipedia has links into the messybeast site, in particular, their albino page. This page states: There are various degrees of patchy albinism (piebaldism) due to localised mutations in skin cells. Here, they are calling patchy albinism - piebaldism. They have a page on albino blackbirds and robins. That page also uses albino and piebald in the same description.
My brain is starting to hurt.
Here's what I've learned:
A pure white robin with pink eyes is an albino. Pure albinos have pink eyes. This is the most rare form of albinism.
To call a white spotted robin a piebald robin is completely correct. To call anything with white spots piebald is also supported by the dictionary.
The term partial albino is used in authoritative texts, but does seem a little loosy goosy.
The Wikipedia ties piebald to leucism, and separates leucism from albinism.
Some folks use partial and piebald interchangeably.
Piebald appears to be a term used both as a coloring description and as a particular genetic condition.
We seem to end up with a hodgepodge of formal and informal language usage. I don't know if it's possible to visually identify albinism from leucism. Since anything with white patches can be rightly called piebald, the details of the underlying cause loses some importance.
This page seems to be attracting attention, at least from folks who have spotted some form of albino robin. In addition, I've received several emails concerning non-robin albinos.
The first was a rare partial albino bald eagle in Colorado. The link is to a radio station (KOA) web site that will hopefully keep the story there for some time.
The next picture is of a partial albino cardinal. It was taken on April 4, 2006, in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was observed by the same folks that spotted the albino robin reported on July 15, 2008.
They passed along this link to the birds of North Carolina. That page includes this link to a partial albino red-tail hawk.
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