It’s not every day one gets to see a leucistic red-tailed hawk.
What is leucism? For starters, it’s different than albinism.
According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch, “Leucism refers to an abnormality in the deposition of pigment in feathers. There is some disagreement as to whether the condition is genetic or caused by pigment cells that were damaged during development. Whatever the cause, the condition can result in a reduction in all types of pigment, causing pale or muted colors on the entire bird.”
Before late February, I had never seen a leucistic bird before and that wasn’t for lack of trying.
I went to Tuckahoe State Park February 9 to see a leucistic red-tailed, which though had been seen by others many times over the years, I had never seen it. And I didn’t see it that day either.
Then on February 24, I was sitting at my desk, as I’m doing currently writing this, and I saw a flash of white flying in my backyard.
My first photos of the hawk were awful and/or did not provide a clue if it was red-shouldered or red-tailed.
I’ve had two barred owls nesting in my backyard since 2012 – they showed up just after I had a bilateral mastectomy that left me with permeant nerve damage and debilitating pain. They introduced me to a love for birds of prey and they’ve been with me ever since.
In other words, they showed up at just the right time and place and helped me through some really bad times.
I know red-shouldered hawks and barred owls will overlap territory, but red-tailed? Nope, I’ve never seen that.
The hawk showed up again and again. Eventually I was able to boost the colors on one of my photos and saw the red tail feathers. No question about it.
It’s a magnificent bird – whether perched or in flight.
To see this leucistic red-tailed hawk and from the comfort of my own home is truly a gift, but something else has happened.
It’s nesting season and on more than occasion, I’ve seen this hawk with a mate – the mate is not leucistic.
Like so many of us, I’m looking forward to getting vaccinated and for this pandemic to be over. For the time being though, I’m again grateful for some birds that showed up at the right time and place.
I’m hoping for a successful nesting season for the barred owls and these hawks too.