A dozen Anna's Hummingbirds flit in and out of the golden banksia flowers and other pink and white blooming shrubs, located in the Australian Gardens at the University of California, Santa Cruz Arboretum. All of them have bright, iridescent feathers in gorgeous shades of emerald, pink and gray. The grove is flooded with vibrant colors. 

Well, all except for one odd looking bird that's resting in a cypress tree, checking out the bustle of feeding and fluttering going on below. The bird is an Anna's Hummingbird- but it's feathers are almost entirely white.

No one knows much about the mysterious little, white hummingbird, except that it's been hanging out in the garden since May and that it has leucism. Leucism is a developmental condition that results in a loss of pigmentation.

Different than albino birds, which can't produce the pigment melanin, leucistic birds can produce melanin, but it can't be deposited into their feathers. Also, albino birds have red or pink eye coloring, but this hummingbird's eyes are black, as are its feet and bill.

Steve Gerow, the bird records keeper for the Santa Cruz Bird Club, says that what makes this bird so very rare is that it's almost completely white, while most leucistic birds are only partially affected. Their feathers have white patches amongst all of their colored plumage.


Some of the feathers on this bird are darker than others, which gives clues as to its sex and age. The bird is certainly a male and it was likely hatched within the last six months, says Gerow. "That's all I know and I don't really know if there's much more possible to be known at this point."

For the most part, the bird has stayed in the Australian Gardens since May. He chirps, sips nectar and flits in and out of the banksia bushes and cypress trees, just like all of his fellow hummingbirds.

The bird has also been seen performing the courtship displays that are typical of a male Anna's Hummingbird. He climbs to about 100 feet in the air and then bombs straight down.

For this species, November is the beginning of breeding season, and it will peak in January through March. Even though the bird doesn't yet have its adult plumage, it is very possible that it could breed, says Gerow. It's still a mystery as to whether or not the bird's leucism will make it less attractive to the females, because the colors of the feathers do play a role in courtship.

The obvious lack of camouflage may also make it more susceptible to predators like hawks and feral cats. Melanin also makes the feathers strong and durable, so the fact that this bird has extensive leucism most likely means that its feathers are weaker than normal. This will make flight and insulation more difficult.

Retired University of California, Santa Cruz biology professor, Todd Newberry, says that in his entire 70 years of bird watching, he's never seen any bird like this one.

He's been to see the Anna's Hummingbird about 100 times so far, and he usually finds the little bird close to the arboretum's Hummingbird Trail.

"The way to find it - the way it is with any rare bird - is to look for people looking at it," says Newberry.

Since May, roughly 1,000 people have come by to see the hummingbird, according to the arboretum. As of October 12, the bird was still being spotted, and visitors are welcome to come and visit.


What a stunningly beautiful little creature this hummingbird is! What do you think about his unusually colored feathers?

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