river talk

Albino versus leucistic

Which white is white?

By SCOTT RANDO
Posted 6/16/21

Some of us are lucky enough to see white-colored deer on occasion. You may have heard someone say, “I saw an albino deer in my backyard today!” The question to ask in response could have …

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river talk

Albino versus leucistic

Which white is white?

Posted

Some of us are lucky enough to see white-colored deer on occasion. You may have heard someone say, “I saw an albino deer in my backyard today!” The question to ask in response could have been, “Was it all white, or just partially white?”

Albinism is when the animal lacks melanin; this gives color to fur, feathers, eyes, skin patterns, etc. The animal appears white, the eyes lack color and may appear pink, and areas of exposed skin will lack color.

Leucism is when the animal lacks color in some areas of its body, fur, or feathers. The eye color, however, will be unaffected. Animals have normal coloration in some spots and white coloration in other areas. In rare instances, an animal will appear all white, and you will need to look at the eyes to see if it is albino or leucistic.

A few weeks ago, I was on top of a ridge in central Pennsylvania, and a turkey vulture flew overhead. On closer inspection, I could see a lot of white on this bird. It turned out to be leucistic, with its white flight feathers on the wings a stark contrast to the normal-colored parts of the wing.

Check out the images of this vulture compared to an albino turkey vulture that was rescued by the Delaware Valley Raptor Center a few years back.

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