As a newbie amateur birder, I've been surprised to learn about the many different looks of the iconic American bald eagle. There's the adult form with the bright white head and dark body, but juveniles have a scruffy, mottled appearance. And I've never seen a white-bodied bald eagle, until now.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation shared a short video of a mostly white bald eagle on Wednesday. The bird was spotted in Oklahoma this week. "This eagle's abnormal color is caused by a genetic condition called leucism, which prevents pigments from reaching its feathers," the department tweeted. "Leucistic bald eagles are rare."
Bird observer Justin Briley captured the footage and shared it with ODWC biologists. The video shows a large, light-colored bird with a yellow beak perched on a tree branch. A breeze ruffles its feathers. A close look shows it's not entirely white, so it's not an albino bird. For another example of a leucistic animal,.
While leucism in wildlife attracts human attention for its rarity, it can sometimes have a negative impact on animals. According to the Ohio State University Bio Museum, "coloration is what animals use to survive, thus animals with albinism and leucism usually have a lower survival rate. Their ability to blend in with their habitat is dramatically reduced and many albinos are easily picked up by predators."
The wildlife department kept quiet on the eagle's exact location, though it's possible it might be a bird that was seen last year along the Illinois River.
As ODWC pointed out, the eagle sighting was timed well to match up with the US team's advancement in the. USA, USA, USA.