The one-in-a-million white house sparrow

Posted on 11:18 PM by Sameer Shah

It is dressed from top to tail in snowy white, a stunning contrast to the drab plumage of the rest of the flock.

But that's not the only reason that this house sparrow was a lucky spot.

The population of the birds, even the common brown ones, has been in sharp decline in recent years.

Once so common that they were culled, house sparrows have been added to the 'priority' list of Britain's most threatened species.

Thousands of pounds have been invested in determining the cause. Initial findings indicate that a decrease in insect numbers and lack of grass seed may be to blame - particularly in London.

These little sparrows, however, were fluttering in the much more hospitable fields of the west Wales countryside.

The flock of 20 was spotted by an amateur photographer holidaying near the site in New Quay, who was intrigued by the white bird in their midst.

David Lloyd, who works for an advertising company in London, is not a birdwatcher - but he knew he was seeing something special.

'This was the first time I had taken any pictures of small birds,' said Mr Lloyd, 45, from New Zealand.

'I was in a wonderful location because as you can see the white bird was on a picket fence and they were all landing there.

'I got a few shots and they weren't that great and so I decided to wait around for two or three more days and that's when I got these shots.'

The white feathers, which are very rare, are the result of a condition known as leucism.

This affects the pigmentation of the skin but unlike albinism it does not turn the eyes pink.

Sometimes leucism affects just parts of a bird's body, so you get blackbirds with white heads or wing patches.

'It is not too rare to see part white sparrows but I think this is a little bit unusual because this one is completely white,' said Mr Lloyd.

'I have read that these white sparrows are picked on and sometimes its own kind can turn against it. What I found unusual is that this one was so comfortable with the rest of the sparrows.'

An RSPB spokesman said the bird could have a shorter lifespan than usual, adding: 'Sometimes they can live absolutely normal lives with no problem at all, but equally if it doesn't benefit from the same camouflage characteristics as the other birds it can be more prone to predation from natural predators like sparrowhawks.'

1 Response to "The one-in-a-million white house sparrow"

Graham_Cliff Says....

Have you read the 2 page pdf "Is light pollution killing our birds?" -
By killing off bugs, "sucking them from habitat areas like a vacuum cleaner" ? (Professor Gerhard Eisenbeis, 2006).