This forum is for asking questions and providing answers on bird identification. New and visiting birders are encouraged to ask and participate.
By Kerry
I had been catching glimpses of something different, flitting about in the brush and small trees, around the yard, for several weeks. A bird with prominent white edged wings. I was not able to see it for more than a split second, and could not make out any other characteristics, so ID was not possible. That is until yesterday, when I got a good look at it, below one of our feeders, scratching for discarded seeds. It appeared to be a Towhee. It was gone by the time I could get the camera, and did not make an appearance for the remainder of the day. This morning, I spotted it again, scratching about, under some trees. I had the camera all ready to go, and made my way outside. I could not establish a line of sight to the bird, without spooking other birds, so it took off, into the brush. I did manage to get a few photos. Not great, but hopefully enough detail, for the experts to positively ID. I believe it is a piebald Spotted Towhee? It's behaviour is very much, Towhee, and it seems to associate with them (usually in the same vicinity). An online search did not reveal any info. How unusual is this?

Thanks for looking.
By jeffdyck
Hi Kerry,

Yes - this appears to be a leucistic Spotted Towhee.

Leucism is a partial loss of pigmentation - it is relatively commonplace in birds (i.e. I usually see a few leucistic birds of one species or another every year). Here is the scientific explaination from

"In leucistic birds, affected plumage lacks melanin pigment due to the cells responsible for melanin production being absent. This results in a white feathers, unless the normal plumage colour also comprises carotenoids (e.g. yellows), which remain unaffected by the condition. Although leucism is inherited, the extent and positioning of the white colouration can vary between adults and their young, and can also skip generations if leucistic genes are recessive.

The reduction of pigment in leucistic birds causes feathers to weaken and be more prone to wear. In some situations this can hinder flight, which, in addition to leucistic birds usually being more conspicuous, can heighten risk of predation. There is also evidence that leucistic birds might, on occasion, not be recognised or accepted by a potential mate"
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