Piebald Chickadee

Alas, the morning spent on my front porch in hopes of the prothonotary warbler returning was in vain. He had found the accommodations at Chez Ardaiolo more to his liking (refer to Prothonotary Warbler Sighting on Loblolly Lane ). However, upon moving to the back porch, I noticed an unusual looking bird drinking water from the hummingbird feeder. No, that wasn’t a white Carolina  Chickadee, just the sun playing tricks on my eyes.  Ooops, there he is again, and he is much whiter than than his companion chickadee.  Boy, is he pretty, but is he a baby, not yet with his adult feathers? Is he a molting bird? 

Leucistic Carolina Chickadee photographed by Jackie Brooks

It turns out that he is a mutant bird, but not one from Area 51.  He is a leucistic Carolina Chickadee.  Leucism is a genetic mutation that causes pigment to fail to be deposited on a bird’s feathers. Plumage that does have color is often a paler, diluted version of its normal color. Since he has some normal coloring, along with his white patches, he is a pied or piebald bird.  Birds that are completely white are leucistic birds. These birds have normal colored eyes, legs and skin. Only their feathers are affected by the lack of color. Albino birds, on the other hand, have no pigment in their skin, legs, feet, and bill. Their eyes are pink or red.

This is not the first leucistic bird to find their way to Seabrook Island. We published an article back in January 2020 with photographs of a leucistic Brown-headed Cowbird.

So, what brings two highly unusual birds, the Prothonotary Warbler pair and the Piebald Carolina Chickadee, to the same area within 24 hours?  Is it fate?  Is it luck? 

Article and Photographs by Jackie Brooks