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Leucistic Cardinal

November 18, 2016.

Some people might call me an “albino” cardinal–but I don’t have red eyes like a true albino.  Bird experts like David Sibley would call me a “fully leucistic” cardinal–see his great explanation at:  http://www.sibleyguides.com/2011/08/abnormal-coloration-in-birds-melanin-reduction/

The simple answer is that melanin, or dark black and brown pigments, don’t show up correctly in my feathers–but carotenoid, or red pigments, show up just fine.  That’s why  some of my feathers look white while others look reddish.

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Although I was raised at the Alabama Wildlife Center, I now live in the Virginia Living Museum’s 2-story Mountain Cove Habitarium.  It’s a beautiful place with a waterfall…

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…and a little stream.

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Most people notice the many fish that are in this exhibit–like the huge Muskellunge pikes or “Muskies” as they are sometimes called:

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Or perhaps people see the brilliantly colored brook trout–which happens to be our state fish!  See the white bars on the edges of their fins?  That’s how you can tell them apart from rainbow trout and brown trout.

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I share my habitat with a few other birds, like this Eastern bluebird:

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Some animals in this exhibit are known for being able to hide really well in their habitat.  When this rough green snake is in a bush or a tree with green leaves, you might not even notice it.  It almost looks like a thin green vine–great camouflage!

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So why am I in this exhibit?  Well, with my white feathers, I can’t exactly hide very well in my natural habitat.   If I were released into the wild it would be too easy for a predator to eat me for lunch!

What?  YOU think I can hide?  Okay, let’s play hide and seek–I’ll hide, then you try to find me.  Ah!  Red leaves, I bet I can hide here….

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You say you found me pretty quickly?  Maybe I should try hiding in the green leaves.  Can you see me now?

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You found me again?!  Maybe I should hide in these brown branches….a much better hiding place, right?

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What!  You found me yet again!

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Well, I guess I’m not very good at camouflage!  The next time you come to the Museum, see if you can find me!  Oh, by the way, I sometimes perch on a branch or someplace where it’s easy to reach me, and you might be tempted to touch me.  But please don’t try to touch me!   If I get scared I might fly into a wall or a window and get hurt.  But it’s okay to take a picture of me though!  Thank you for helping to keep me safe!

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1 Comment

  • Steve

    Ha! Thanks for this article. I had seen one of these cardinals at my feeder a few days ago and thought it might be some type of cardinal, I just wasn’t sure. Now I know, so again, thank you.

    Reply

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